Meghan Markle and Alexis Ohanian have discussed the importance of diversity in technology companies and the legacy and impacts of social media while opening up about their “shared experiences” as parents of mixed-race children.
During the conversation, Ohanian, the husband of Serena Williams, discussed his dedication to creating a world that is “just fair to my daughter,” Olympia, three.
“I just can’t help but want to create a world that is just fair to my daughter,” Ohanian said. “And I know that that’s lofty, but it’s a thing worth striving toward. And you know, I’m gonna work every day to get a little better.”
In June, Ohanian stepped down from Reddit’s board of directors in the hopes that the company would fill his position with a black candidate, at the time explaining that his decision was for his daughter.
“I'm writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: 'What did you do?’” he wrote.
During the interview with Meghan, Ohanian revealed that he is still getting hate mail over his decision, which he believes is proof that there is “still a lot of work to be done” in the country.
In response, the duchess remarked on the similarities between herself and the Reddit co-founder, explaining: “I know we have shared experiences in being in interracial marriages and you know raising small children who are of mixed race and how that plays into that.”
Ohanian also touched on the impacts the lack of diversity in companies, especially in social media and technology, can have on society, acknowledging that there is a “common thread” among all of the creators of those platforms.
“We all look the same. We all had very similar education experiences and backgrounds. And the way that has now played out and manifested fifteen years later is the culmination of frankly a lot of blind spots,” he said.
The duchess and Ohanian discussed the hate that exists on social media platforms as well, and how companies are attempting to eradicate these groups with tools such as artificial intelligence.
“The good outweighs the bad, but my goodness, the bad can be so loud,” Meghan said, while acknowledging the impact hate speech on social media can have on moderators who are tasked with removing it.
“I think you’ve talked about and you tweeted recently that we haven’t yet begun to realise the legacy and the effects that all of these platforms and what social media and what the online space is doing to all of us on a deeper level,” she said. “And that’s what I think people haven’t realised. We’re in it now, but we have a chance to get ourselves out of it.”
According to Ohanian, he believes his education as a history major studying “post World War II, sort of postwar Germany, the deNazification process basically that both West and East Germany went through,” will be similar to the efforts to “de-radicalise” people who engage in hate online.
“I never thought it would serve me now 15 years later, but in a way it is,” he said of his education. “Because I do think there’s gonna be some work that will need to be done to de-radicalise a generation, especially here in the United States who you know predominantly white, predominantly male, feeling very disaffected and sort of left behind and frustrated by a lot of things, and who’ve found solace, who’ve found community, who’ve found kinship in dark corners that normalised really socially toxic behaviour.”
Meghan also discussed the responsibility that comes with being the founder of a social media platform, mainly to not allow hate and false information to spread, and to protect both users and those who work for the company.
“There’s responsibility with that, there’s responsibility in media, there’s responsibility in journalism, you’re responsible for what is being pushed out there. Just like in broadcast. But somehow the platforms have - have created a space where they are not subject to that same sort of jurisdiction,” she said. “And it’s troubling.”
During the conversation, Ohanian reflected on the ways his mindset and perspective have changed since being married to tennis star Williams, Meghan’s good friend.
“I’ve had so many moments in my life where I was given the benefit of the doubt, where I never felt unsafe, where I always felt heard, where I did not realise until I was in a relationship with someone who has achieved as much as she has and still regularly deals with this in painful frustrating ways,” he said, adding that his desire to make the world a better place only increased when the couple had their daughter.
The discussion concluded with Meghan thanking Ohanian for the work he has done “not just for all of us, but for your little girl, for our little boy, for all of us.”