Can cryptocurrencies play a role in bringing the benefits of modern – or even post-modern – finance to underserved African American communities? Is it possible that bitcoin could be the key to enabling black Americans to close with wealth gap with their non-black fellow citizens?
Provocative as it sounds, this is the thesis of Isaiah Jackson, co-founder of KRBE Digital Assets Group. Jackson’s book Bitcoin & Black America makes the case that a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin has a number of features that make it an important ingredient in the kind of economic independence he believes would benefit black Americans. In an interview with Forbes’ Jason Brett last summer, Jackson noted that during the golden era of black-owned banking in the United States – the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War – the existence of multiple currencies played a significant part in supporting the development of community-based financial institutions. This, in turn, helped build the first black middle class in the U.S.
Jackson sees Bitcoin playing a similar role today. He approves of both Bitcoin’s deflationary nature, which he says encourages savings over spending, and its “circular economy” which – not unlike the economy of 19th century black banking – exists significantly outside of a traditional banking system Jackson decries as racist.
With a background as a computer scientist, as well as a Bitcoin consultant and trader, Jackson is nevertheless wary about a future in which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are common. To the extent that human nature endures, discriminatory practices like redlining, in his opinion, are likely to follow us into our digital future – with the moral (or immoral) panic of the day incentivizing regulators to monitor and restrict certain digital currency transactions from certain people or communities. And if history is any guide, the negative impacts of these restrictions are most likely to fall on those least able to manage them.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the potential for Bitcoin to make a difference for black Americans, Washington is a believer. “For the first time in history,” Washington told CNBC in an interview last month, “we have a Plan B option to the current financial system which has seen years of redlining, racial discrimination, and other egregious acts by retail banks to the Black community.”
The second edition of Bitcoin and Black America is currently available via pre-order. The new edition features seven additional chapters including information on Bitcoin specifically for small business owners, as well as a roster of more than 200+ black professionals working in the Bitcoin industry.