Since May 25, 2020, the world has been shaken by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was asphyxiated by a Minneapolis police officer. Tens of thousands of people have marched in protests, expressing their discontent at the systemic discrimination of African-Americans.
Yet an unlikely group has added its support to the cause: blockchain. CEOs of large-cap blockchain companies, cryptocurrency founders, and entrepreneurs of color have expressed how blockchain can leverage its decentralized nature to further movements like Black Lives Matter.
The response of the decentralized community
Isaiah Jackson published a book in 2019 titled Bitcoin & Black America. His book explores the “synergy between black economics, Bitcoin and blockchain technology”. His chief argument is that the banking system is prejudiced, corroborated by the fact that less than 20% of Wall Street executives are people of color. The populist nature of blockchain can challenge the supremacy of Wall Street and transfer monetary power to the grassroots. He asks that African-American leaders in finance support the blockchain.
In response to the protests, Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, described non-financial applications of blockchain: “Decentralized censorship-resistant publishing and communication, decentralized communities[,] governance[, and] DAOs”.
He states that while using blockchain to transfer money ubiquitously may be difficult to achieve in the short-term, diminished government intervention can proliferate raw opinions about Black Lives Matter and draw support to causes that large social media companies may censor. With the blockchain’s ability to maintain anonymity, grassroots democracy can truly thrive in the U.S.
It’s not just the US
Even outside the U.S., blockchain has aided protests and free speech. One prime example is South America, where 2019’s last quarter saw increased Bitcoin adoption by Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, and more: countries where populist discontentment rose. Another example is Hong Kong; Cointelegraph reported that in 2019, “pro-democracy and anti-government protest movement in Hong Kong spurred wider adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin”.
In some regions though, like Hong Kong and Iran, governments reduced Internet connectivity in response to protests, shutting down many nodes on the blockchain. In addition, governments could monitor a large percentage of blockchain transactions because small businesses ended up converting cryptocurrency to fiat cash (since they have minimal assets in reserves).
For international protests to be as successful as those in the U.S., secretive organizations must aid the grassroots in maintaining asset fluidity between bitcoin and fiat money. Once achieved, democracy can trickle to all corners of the world. Blockchain is a staunch ally to any movement that seeks to shake the status quo. ∎
Erazo, Felipe. “Protestors Invoke Bitcoin in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death.” Cointelegraph, Cointelegraph, 1 June 2020.
Jackson, Isaiah. Bitcoin & Black America. Independently Published, 2019.
Kiersz, Andy, and Portia Crowe. “These Charts Show Just How White and Male Wall Street Really Is.” Business Insider, Insider Inc., 25 Aug. 2015.
Wright, Turner. “Vitalik Tells CZ to Think Bigger: Crypto Is More Than Just ‘Protest’ Money.” Cointelegraph, Cointelegraph, 3 June 2020.