It’s important for marginalized people to be represented in tech in this moment because of the danger that technology is about to be used to hurt their communities.
But the stakes are suddenly much higher. It’s perhaps no surprise that some of the key figures behind the post-2011 explosion of activism for diversity in tech are now leading the Never Again Pledge: The same problems that existed before November 9 still exist, only now they are magnified. Perhaps nowhere is this better exemplified than in the fight to “keep racists from giving talks at programming conference” that Honeywell mentioned in her post-election tweet. In 2016, even as the election was playing out on a national stage, the programming community was convulsed with a debate over whether the functional programming conference LambdaConf should rescind its speaking invitation to neo-reactionary ideologue and computer scientist Curtis Yarvin, also known as Mencius Moldbug. Citing his racist views (for example, he claims that white people have inherently higher IQs, and that some people are better suited for slavery), several speakers and sponsors withdrew from LambdaConf in protest. His supporters saw the attempt to no-platform him as an illegitimate attack on speech, where protesters viewed his talk as contributing to a hostile environment for already-marginalized groups in tech.
But under the new administration, the question of giving platforms to people like Yarvin becomes even thornier. “If the alt-right does have an intellectual forbear, it is … Curtis Yarvin,” James Kirchick wrote in May, in an article about “Trump’s terrifying online brigades.” The problem of Yarvin is no longer just that he contributes to a hostile professional environment for women or people of color: It's that his fringe beliefs have fueled a national political movement that is hostile to them in more tangible ways. Prior to November 9, activists merely sought to prevent Yarvin from speaking at conferences. After November 9, they now seek to stop the creation and use of technology in service of his beliefs. In this way, the work being done in tech circles before November 9 is still relevant — maybe even more so. Campos sees continuing investment in diversity as essential. “What gets complicated is that in addition to all the education stuff, and making space for people, we now need to get active in a political sense that I don’t know was true in the past.” It’s important, he says, for marginalized people to be represented in tech in this moment, because of the danger that technology is about to be used to hurt their communities. But the mood in Silicon Valley is sour. “I sense apprehension,” says Karla Monterroso, Vice President of Programs at Code2040. “Things feel very uncertain right now. And I don’t know that that is going to be any different than the way we’re going to experience things in the near term.” For Monterroso, despite living in the deep blue bubble of Silicon Valley, the results of the election were hardly surprising. “There isn’t a woman or woman of color who hasn’t tweeted and has any kind of network presence who is really surprised about what has happened,” she said. “We felt it coming. There was hope, because that’s how you sustain change — hope in the face of the impossible. But the volume of toxicity that existed has existed.” The Never Again Pledge closed to new signatures on December 21, citing the enormous effort in vetting signatories on an ongoing basis. But before that happened, 2,843 tech workers had signed on. One line, both chilling and powerful, reads: "Today we stand together to say: not on our watch, and never again." Sarah Jeong is a journalist specializing in technology and legal issues.