Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

What do the New $20 Bill, Hillary Clinton, & Buzzfeed All Have in Common?

What do the New $20 Bill, Hillary Clinton, & Buzzfeed All Have in Common?

The question came to me after hearing the news that Harriet Tubman would be the face of the $20 bill. I remember initial conversations being had and honestly didn’t think it would go any further than that. My reaction to the update was along the lines of, “that’s cool but what about economic justice for Black people?” You know, I can never just rejoice in a moment.

Don’t get me wrong, this is symbolic, huge. It excites me to know that when my daughter comes of age and has her initial experiences with American money she’ll be holding a piece of history, her history – not some old white men whose truths are as ugly as the nation they founded.

Harriet Tubman represents women as an integral part of history, and the ignored history of Black women with deep and complex stories to be told. She represents liberation and freedom. She represents everything that Black people are and everything the United States is not. The U.S. shouldn’t tout the legacy of a revolutionary, if it’s not fully about what she stood for.

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We've certainly made gains in respect to representation. I’m confident that my daughter won’t experience some of the identity issues I experienced, just knowing there will be characters in media she can relate to. But representation won’t fix everything. We’ve had a whole Black president almost a full eight years and within that time some of the most tense, contested, and violent conversations – and actions – against Black people in America.

If 2015 was the year of self-identification, I don’t want that followed up by a year of symbolic gestures as a response – and a front. You know, the kind of front Hilary has been putting on. The “I have a Black friend” front, or better yet, the “We have a Black President” front.

Just take a look at Buzzfeed’s most recent slip up. “If my dab is on fleek am I lit?” (I’m still waiting for whoever wrote that question to get fired.) Buzzfeed has been recognized as one of the more diverse media companies, but what good is that diversity if decision-makers are still making racially insensitive decisions? What good is representation if the folks that need it most STILL don’t benefit?

Harriet Tubman was a freedom fighter whose role was anti-capitalist and anti-Establishment. If she was here today what would she think about having her face on the $20? Using her as the new face is nothing more than a symbolic gesture, so my response is nothing more than a thumbs-up. Now, if in conjunction with the new bill’s rollout, women around the country get a pay increase I’ll rejoice. And if Black people will finally be welcomed to the same socioeconomic playing field as whites with this new currency, then I want my reparations in all $20 bills please.


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