Reuniting the divided states of America

By Darryl Koh,  Class of 2017

By Darryl Koh, Class of 2017

Michigan schoolchildren are chanting “build the wall” while rounding up their Hispanic classmates. A Californian woman was harassed on public transit for speaking Assyrian on the phone. In Minnesota, an Asian woman was arrested for defending herself against assault from a group of Trump supporters. In Alabama, the Ku Klux Klan has started openly recruiting.

Before he even formally takes power, Donald Trump has transformed America. Our first priority should be to ensure that everyone is free from harassment and physical harm. Against those who would overtly strike out against someone merely due to the color of their skin, gender, or sexual orientation, we should be unyielding and merciless.

But when the antics are quelled and recently emboldened bigots retreat to their daily lives, there is another critically important task at hand.

To the readership of ChiBus, you are disproportionately young, educated, urban, and diverse (and foreign) compared to the American population. This tells me that most of you voted, or would have voted had you been American, for Hillary Clinton. There is no point in ranting to you about the flaws of Donald Trump or the about the terrible mistake the most powerful national in the world has just made. Instead, I want to ask for your help in changing the underlying societal issues that made a Trump presidency possible.

Protestors take to the streets after the election last Tuesday.

Protestors take to the streets after the election last Tuesday.

America, and the world, stands divided. Left and Right. Establishment and Outsiders. Globalists and Nationalists. Liberals and Conservatives. Us versus Them.

Institutions and authority in today’s world are so distrusted that people would rather believe the “man on the street” over an established expert; to those who are probably not reading this article, the world is out to get them.

Take anti-vaxxers for a moment. In order to believe that vaccines are bad, you have to believe that the entire medical establishment – not just pharma companies, but doctors, nurses and pharmacists everywhere – is out to make a quick buck at the expense of the general population. To us, this seems ludicrous, and it is; but to millions of Americans it is perfectly plausible. To them, the establishment has been making a quick buck at their expense for decades.

Now, get this; we are the establishment. We are guilty of discrimination, just like the so-called “deplorables” that form a significant portion of Trump’s support. They write us off as insufferable liberals and we write them off as appalling bigots.

We are MBA students. We benefit from and understand globalization. We understand the dangers of skill-biased technological change and how globalization disproportionately punishes certain communities. We understand how the pipeline in the US public education system is broken beyond salvage. And we have to fix it right.

Because if we do not, they will fix it wrong.

We are all complicit in this crime, whether you are a citizen of this country or a foreigner living here. Before you blame those who voted for a third party, sat at home on election night, or supported Trump, just remember that we are not free of guilt either.

So the next time you meet a Trump supporter and are tempted to flip them off and walk the opposite direction, don’t. Do not dismiss, engage. Do not condescend, respect. Do not lecture, listen.

If we continue to fight, we continue the polarized narrative that has dominated global politics for the better part of our adult lives. As we sever social media ties with those whose views differ from ours, and as we continue to discuss behind closed doors within our tight-knit groups of young, educated professionals, we only serve to further divide society where it matters most. We accentuate the confirmation bias of our own views as we fail to reach out.

So to my classmates here at Booth, I ask for your help:

Lead, engage, fuel, transform.

Darryl is a second year full-time MBA student. He was born in Singapore, but grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Prior to Booth, Darryl was based in Toronto, Canada, but spent half his time in the US on various consulting projects.