David Brown, Co-CEO of TechStars, sent a letter to the TechStars community in response to the 2016 election. Like him, it took me a few days to process how I felt about the election results. He wrote:
It saddens me that the United States is so divided and I have to say that I’ve never had such a hard time processing my feelings on a topic.
The majority of my life, I’ve worked to find and create opportunities to build bridges across divisions. As an Independent, I didn’t vote along a straight party line throughout the full 2016 ballot; but after seeing so much hateful, racist, sexist, and spiteful rhetoric from many conservative leaders on the campaign trail, my votes leaned strongly towards progressive candidates.
After seeing the fall-out of the election results, I talked about the elections with the people in my social networks. I wanted to learn how other people felt, how they were processing and responding to the outcome. Many were profoundly shaken — I think Saturday Night Live’s sketch with Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock hit that nail on the head. Some people said we need to accept it and move forward. Some seemed to have voted for the GOP candidate and continued to bash Hillary Clinton, while ignoring the surge in hate crimes that immediately followed the 2016 election results. A few friends shared horror stories of children, students, family, friends and peers being targeted with racist or hateful comments. But once in a while, a story of heroic humanity would break through, like the case of Baylor’s community standing up for an African-American student in declaring #IWalkWithNatasha.
I talked about the election and its results with my team at Station Houston. We discussed the myriad perspectives and possible outcomes of the election results. And to clarify where I stand — and hopefully model how we can best practice our core values of inclusion, thoughtful action, and care for our vast community — I sent them the following email … in the spirit of transparency, I want to share it here:
Diversity and inclusion are core to who we are as Station Houston and how we serve our community. We have to keep in mind that we operate at the focal point of Houston’s tech startup community…and many of these tech startups’ founders and teams comprise people from all over the world, from all walks of life. We operate within the context of Members, Mentors, and Partners who span the political, ideological and social/socio-economic spectrums. We operate within the context of the most diverse city in the country, and also the fourth most segregated city in the country. We operate as leaders-by-example, which translates to operating as leaders-by-action.
After the election, I’ve been seeing a lot of hate speech proliferate online and offline. I want everyone to keep in mind that we want this to be a safe space for all; and, as such, that any disrespectful behavior is not tolerated here, neither from anyone nor to anyone, regardless of role within the Station community. Because we work among so many thoughtful and considerate people, it can be easy to assume that that behavior won’t penetrate these walls; but it can. This election has shown that anything is possible.
In these times, I want us all to hark back to our stated values, and make sure that everyone in our community knows that Station Houston is a safe place for them. For ALL of them, regardless of which way they voted. And we will take any and all steps necessary to ensure it remains a respectful, productive and supportive environment, for all.
Thank you! Please know that if you ever need help with anything, we have your backs. We have each other’s backs.
Hugs…because that’s how we roll,
I don’t believe that voting one way or another makes you “good” or “evil.” But I do hope that whichever way you voted, you did not do it to harm another human being, or to destroy the world we live in. I have faith in our strength and resilience, and still believe that we can make this world a better place if we can all decide to work together to solve our biggest problems. But we must decide to do that together. We must commit to do the work of, by and for ALL OF US. And I commit to that at Station, and in everything else I touch.
United, we stand. Divided, we fall. And if you cast your vote in favor of division, watch out: The journey is long, and that fall will be hard.