Racial diversity and financial inclusion are good for cryptocurrency and blockchain – and the industry has work to do.
Juneteenth is the celebration of June 19, 1865, when the last group of enslaved African Americans were made aware of the Emancipation Proclamation that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had signed two years earlier.
While America’s education system has left many ignorant of the origins of Juneteenth, there has been a revived interest in turning the day into a national holiday after protests sprung up around the world in response to the May 25 police killing of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd.
In a wide-ranging conversation Friday, panelists at the event said crypto has the potential to allow citizens to opt out of what they described as a racist financial system on Wall Street. That said, the panelists added, Black people and people of color must be part of the development of the technology for that to happen.
Read more: Bitcoin Is a Way to Repair Economic Injustice: Author Isaiah Jackson
Isaiah Jackson, founder of KRBE Digital Assets Group and author of Bitcoin & Black America, said he believes that Black investment in digital assets would create a more resilient system than Black Wall Street, a Black business district that was burned down by white mobs during the Tulsa race massacre of 1921.
“You can’t burn down cryptocurrency and blockchain technology,” Jackson said. “I want to encourage everyone to stay vigilant and make sure you start to move your money and savings out of this failing system. … We need to make sure we use censorship-resistant and scarce-money systems such as bitcoin.”
Sinclair Skinner, the co-founder of pan-African bitcoin remittance firm BitMari, agreed, saying the ethos of bitcoin and the ethos of the Black community are aligned.
“We say that Satoshi is Black,” Skinner said. “But Satoshi was probably a Black woman because a man would have never been able to walk away and not take credit.”
More work needed
Despite crypto’s potential, however, the industry is not immune to the same societal ills that have affected the broader world, Skinner said.
“Blockchain is full of racists,” he said. “It’s just like the rest of society.”
In the fight for venture capital, blockchain enthusiasts should remember that cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and Black founders face the same issues – being turned away for being different, Mesidor said.
In turn, entrepreneurs should choose investors that have diverse funds, said Jalak Jobanputra, founding partner of FuturePerfect Ventures, an early-stage fund investing in blockchain technology and machine learning.
“We have to make sure that diverse voices are represented unlike what happened with the internet 20 years ago when it was really created by one demographic for one demographic,” Jobanputra said.
Read more: How an Art Collective Is Using Blockchain to Protest Police Brutality
One source of funding that crypto entrepreneurs could be tapping more is Black family offices, said Genevieve Leveille, CEO of AgriLedger, a U.K.-based blockchain firm trying to ensure pay equity for farmers.
“We are going to a technology which is very nascent and many people do not clearly see yet the opportunities,” she said. “There are plenty of Black family offices and we should be tapping into that network.”
Crypto is also another way that Black entrepreneurs can achieve economic equality, said Jomari Peterson, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University focused on empowering underrepresented communities through microlending and gaming.
“We cannot wait until it’s too late and those systems are already around us,” Peterson said.
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