My Conversation with Peter Thiel about Apartheid… And its Unfolding Aftermath

“Gotta say I wasn’t surprised when tech billionaire Peter Thiel endorsed Trump. Peter and I were dormmates at Stanford freshman year, and while I barely knew him — we ran in different circles — his fiercely Libertarian views were often a topic of conversation among those of us living in Branner Hall. One day I heard a rumor that Peter defended apartheid (which was then still the law of the land in South Africa), which I found morally repugnant. To know that a fellow student, a dormmate for that matter, might defend such a brutally oppressive race-based caste system gave me the willies. But I wanted to give Peter the benefit of the doubt, so I mustered the courage to go to his room to ask him about it. He said, with no facial affect, that apartheid was a sound economic system working efficiently, and moral issues were irrelevant. He made no effort to even acknowledge the pain the concept of apartheid could possibly raise for me, a Black woman. Needless to say, the chill up my spine didn’t go away that day; if anything my fear was now greater knowing I was living with someone who seemed indifferent to human suffering or felt that oppressing whole swaths of humans was a rational, justifiable element of a system of governance. The looming threat of a Trump presidency makes me feel the exact same way.”

“That’s really all I can say for sure happened. It was the 1985–86 school year and much of the detail is lost to memory. The part that stuck like a lump in my throat for 30 years is what I posted.”

“Does anyone know what will and won’t go viral? I sure don’t. It didn’t cross my mind, frankly. I just wanted to tell “someone.”

I’ve been holding this memory inside of me for over 30 years and when Thiel endorsed Trump back in July I knew I shouldn’t keep it to myself any longer. I spoke with a New York Times reporter about my experience, but nothing came of that conversation. I suppose I was kind of relieved — it isn’t my ambition in life to take on a billionaire let alone one who’s proven to be vindictive when crossed.

I set my fear aside today after reading that Thiel was once again speaking publicly about his endorsement of Trump. My hope was simply that someone in the media would see my post, take an interest in those facts, and perhaps interview Thiel or even Trump himself. Someone who could ask pointed questions about things like race, equality and oppression. About the intersection of worldview and politics and human rights. Maybe even about Trump’s plans for those he thinks of as “the others.”

Thoughts And Ideas

An attempt to bring all heart-touching and thought provoking writings under one roof to make an impact.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

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TED speaker; author of NYT bestseller How to Raise an Adult, and Real American; human interested in humans thriving

Thoughts And Ideas

An attempt to bring all heart-touching and thought provoking writings under one roof to make an impact.