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Conscious Bias – A Reaction to President-Elect Trump

I sat down to watch the first Republican primary debate last year with an almost giddy anticipation – this will be fun!  Trump will create some fireworks among the stodgy political elite, bring some entertainment value to otherwise pretty unwatchable television, and then crawl back to wherever it is trolls normally live.  I assumed that the race would move on quickly and he would be squeezed out by more serious contenders.  Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush had already been hailed in major media outlets as the likely nominees for their respective parties, so it seemed a bit of harmless fun to tune in and enjoy the show.  I don’t even remember what Trump (or anyone else for that matter) said in that first debate, but I do remember, a couple of months later, as he was emerging as the surprise front runner, how out of sorts he looked being asked real questions about his platform and policy ideas.  He seemed completely flatfooted – like the obnoxious kid in school who had been telling everyone he could jump his bicycle over a ravine and was finally being asked to prove it.  His campaign came out with a generic slogan and his oratorical style was almost exclusively sweeping (and often horrific) generalizations.  It seemed that he was daring the public to kick him out of the race.  He couldn’t quit without looking weak, but he never intended it to go this far, so he upped the ante on the hate rhetoric, the alignment with the alt-right, and the vicious personal attacks on anyone who crossed him.  Terrifyingly, his popularity grew, and exposed just how massively angry and disenfranchised a large percentage of our country feels.  It turns out he could jump the ravine, or if he didn’t make it, no one cared.  They were in it for the ride.

I woke up on November 9th and felt as though the bottom had dropped out of the universe.  It was literally incomprehensible that this wildly unqualified, angry poster child for the reactionary rebellion could have ascended to the White House.  He will be responsible for our nuclear launch codes, our domestic and foreign policies, our economy, and our international stature.  He has surrounded himself with a cadre of people who have track records of sexism, racism, homophobia, and corruption that equal – or perhaps exceed – his own and they will be given copies of his key to the castle.

Those of us working for equality, justice, and women’s empowerment have a clear call to action.  We must stand strong, and stand together to expose, counter, and undermine any efforts to roll back the progress of the last century.  Our work is more necessary and meaningful than ever before, and we can use this moment of uncertainty (for our future, for our country) as an opportunity to advance our efforts.  We have all seen the global appetite for women’s empowerment increase as more stakeholders appreciate what a critical and essential driver of growth it is.  It is a moral imperative wrapped in economic incentives that benefit the entire worldwide community, and people are finally starting to wake up to that.

Nearly a year ago to the day, I was sitting in a summit in Istanbul in which one of the participants stood up and declared that we can never forget that progress can go backwards.  First Lady Michelle Obama said much the same thing at the United State of Women Summit in June, and urged us to keep pushing for greater equality and opportunities for women and girls.  To never be complacent.  I, for one, pledge to turn the frustration, fear, and astonishment I feel over this election into an even deeper commitment to eradicating bias, barriers, and bigotry in our country and around the world.  I know I will not be alone.


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