have an honest difference of opinion about whether Harriet
likeness should grace the front of the $20 bill. Whether you view the
change as progress
and badly needed representation
or just disrespectful,
that is not nearly enough.
America needs far more and is owed much more.
is out of the White House and Biden is in, the plans to replace
with Sister Moses on the $20 note have begun in earnest. Trump - who
convinced a lynch mob to storm the Capitol in the waning days of his
presidency, and whose father was arrested at a Ku
Klux Klan rally
- loved Andrew
who owned enslaved Africans and committed genocide against Native
the Tubman bill, because having a Black shero on money - as opposed
to mammy on the box of pancake mix, or the depiction of Black folks
cotton on Confederate bills
- was not a good look to White supremacists.
is worth noting that they wait until currency
to put a Black person on some paper money, but that’s for
Prince Akeem Joffer of Zamunda has
his own money,
“And when I say the boy has his own money, I mean THE BOY HAS
HIS OWN MONEY.” In the real world, Black people adorn the
currency of the African
and the African and Black
of Canada who was arrested in 1946 for sitting in a whites-only
section of a movie theater in Nova Scotia, appears on the Canadian
Black leaders such as
(who is on the back of a special collection quarter),
Luther King Jr.,
appeared on a U.S. postage stamp, and there is power in Black
representation, in having America get used to seeing us in
high-profile spaces in the nation we built.
the case of Tubman, she liberated enslaved Black people and served as
a spy for the Union Army, accomplishments many White Americans have
not learned and must understand.
white men have dominated American currency speaks to the historic and
ongoing treatment of African Americans by this society. The U.S.
dollar, like America itself, always was white real estate, a symbol
of white domination, wealth and power built on the backs of Black
labor. A self-emancipated enslaved Black woman never was meant to
appear on these bills as a leader of the nation - a nation that
relegated her to property status, with no rights and three-fifths a
was proud to contribute to the newly released book, “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,”
edited by Ibram
X. Kendi and
In my chapter, I wrote about the Royal
the British corporation that was the most important institution in
the transatlantic slave trade, and responsible for sending more
African people to the Americas than any other entity.
and foremost, the RAC was a corporate monopoly and a business deal.
The whole reason for Black people being kidnapped, tortured, raped,
and condemned to forced labor - and now still dealing with over four
centuries of trauma - was all about a business deal.
of ancestors still rest at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the
Middle Passage, all a part of a lucrative contract of which Black
folks were on the losing end. We lost our freedom, our families, our
lives, our homes, and often our minds, as others became staggeringly
and intergenerationally wealthy from our physical, social and psychic
is history that we should not learn only during Black
but all the time. However, understanding that history means doing
something about it. A $20 Harriet Tubman bill makes for good
symbolism if you think America deserves her.
$2,000 per month for every Black American in perpetuity and
retroactively, or some other tangible form of reparations is
something to consider. This, in a country that claims it lacks
resources, yet has pumped trillions of dollars into the markets to
keep U.S. capitalism afloat this past year and has become accustomed
to disseminating COVID-19 cash payments to millions.
Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman is no replacement for the policies
and legal protections Black people need, including voting rights,
economics, and reparations. We can’t stop there.
This commentary was originally published by The Grio