Since joining a global tech company this year, (and even prior to joining that), I've thought a lot about the changing tides in the Bay Area and the pissed-off divisiveness that often accompanies massive economic, cultural, psychogeographic, and social transformation.
Being a radical optimist, I've always felt cynical of this cynicism. I'd like to challenge you to consider the potential for tech industry-led positive impact in the bay.
Side note: One might consider whether this provocation is my attempt to alleviate insecurities and guilt around my current job standing in the face of trending social perceptions. But nope! This attitude predates me joining the tech industry. (Although I will say that it's been reinforced since joining Autodesk and experiencing the potential for scaleable education impact at my job firsthand.)
The Bay Area is experiencing housing inequality. City character being redefined. The priciest hotels in the world. $2600 for a studio apartment in the Mission. Expensive restaurants with a new foodie gimmick popping up every five feet on Valencia. Oakland housing inflation as a result of peninsula spillover. Goddamn those privileged yuppie techie hipsters who are fucking everything up!
All of this is true and we need real solutions to these challenges and more. I believe that real solutions will not be achieved by furthering divisiveness, so here's an open challenge invitation to everyone:
Challenge Number 1: Lay off the stereotypes, folks.
These are people. Experiencing violent social rejection and being made to feel like you have no right to be where you are can result in major damage to individuals as well as to the health of the communities they comprise. Calling names isn't going to make people go away. However, it might result in environmental and social apathy, violence, fear, racism, classism, and a general lack of unity.
Challenge Number 2: Celebrate the changing face of capitalism.
Let's stop alienating a tremendous resource. The tech worker and the tech 1% demographic are helping to redefine the face of capitalism. what qualities define past demographics of the 1%, and what are they being replaced with? How might those differences change the way that industry impacts society? Everyone remembers when Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donated 25 million to fight ebola, or when Mark Benihoff (Salesforce CEO) started donating millions to SF middle schools and offering Principals "innovation grants", or when Google launched their 20 million dollar challenge grant program. What if that challenge grant was geared towards seeking equitable housing solutions for the Bay Area? Why don't we just work to redirect social impact efforts already originating in Big Tech towards the issues that we care about? Beyond access to new funding streams, there is potential access to many other resources: Massive volunteer labor pools. Facilities. Expertise. Tools. How might we positively leverage this influx of tech savvy, creative, progressive, college educated, capital-accessing people from around the world?
The blip of an article that sparked these thoughts is linked here.
Although there is plenty of room for cynicism in this recent coverage, my first reaction: These corporate entities and the people that fuel them are promoting civil rights and progressive values. And that is awesome.
As a Bay Area community member, I'm excited (after dedicating a decade to non profits, small businesses, and community grassroots efforts -- go on with your bad selves!), to see tech-industry-led efforts positively impacting communities.
Will social reform come through a corporate sponsorship? Maybe.
But is it replacing a system of corporate-sponsored oppression?
Perhaps I am a completely misguided Pollyanna, but optimism has it's perks. ;) I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Happy 4th. I hope you all can taste the Revolution in your Freedom Burgers.
privileged educator, artist, designer, community member, tech worker lady