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How Bitcoin Can Benefit Black Communities with Isaiah Jackson

February 19th, 2021Joey PrebysJoey Prebys

In the United States, an individual or family’s wealth is directly related to how they approach or receive various opportunities. People with wealth find it easier to transfer jobs, pay for their children’s education, and respond to emergency situations. Historically, black communities have a fraction of the wealth of white families, leaving them more economically insecure and with far fewer opportunities for economic mobility. Less wealth translates into fewer opportunities for upward mobility and is compounded by lower-income jobs and a more difficult time building wealth and passing accumulated wealth down to future generations.

On top of this disparity in wealth, black communities have been some of the most marginalized by traditional banking systems. During the Financial Crisis of 2008, borrowers in black neighborhoods were twice as likely as homeowners in low-income white neighborhoods to refinance with a subprime loan. In addition to historically racist banking policies, high opening costs, transaction fees, long travel distances, and a great amount of paperwork involved are some of the main reasons why banking is so inaccessible.

As a monetary movement catered to the interests of the people and not the wealthy elite, Bitcoin provides an opportunity to accelerate financial inclusion by eliminating reliance on banks, providing a secure store of value that grows over time, creating new jobs, and new ways to generate wealth.

This week, I had the pleasure of talking to Isaiah Jackson to discuss his book, Bitcoin and Black America. Jackson, AKA Bitcoin Zay, also hosts Community Crypto on CoinDesk TV and co-hosts the Gentlemen in Crypto podcast. 

In the book, Jackson explores the synergy of black economics, Bitcoin, and blockchain technology and how the black community can incorporate cryptocurrency into daily life to gain financial freedom.

Joey Prebys: You speak on using Bitcoin for everyday transactions because historically, it allows you to increase your spending power while providing increased value to the store owners that accept and the black community at large. Have your opinions on using BTC as an everyday medium of exchange changed now that one coin is worth $50k? What is your opinion on HODLing?

Isaiah Jackson: As a long-time HODLer myself, I do agree that bitcoin in its current state is better as a store of value. However, when I wrote the book, I was sort of looking forward to the future. In my opinion, bitcoin, just like any other money, has its three stages, and Bitcoin is just getting started. So, we have a store of value, then we move to a medium of exchange, then from there, a unit of account. I may have been a little before my time because right now, bitcoin is better as a store of value. However, what happens when inflation increases to the point where people who own businesses would rather accept bitcoin? That's when you'll see the medium of exchange market take off. I think that the people who own bitcoin will be able to buy goods at a very discounted price because they won't want to part with their bitcoin. They'll basically say, 'hey, if I want to spend it, I'm going to need a 50, 60, 70% discount." As that happens, the purchasing power increases for everyday people. 

So, I think we're on the right track, and that plan can work. The only problem is, you're right. You can spend bitcoin today and be like Laszlo, who spent 10,000 bitcoins on pizza. Even myself, I have a story about a $900 burrito that I bought in 2016. I do understand that, but as we move into the future, I think that is definitely available for group economics in the black community. 

JP: You wrote this book in 2019. Since then, Bitcoin has become a very popular asset among financial institutions and massive corporations. Do you see this as a challenge to the black community championing Bitcoin in communities? Or does Bitcoin's move into the mainstream make it easier?

IJ: I have mixed emotions about it, simply because I know there are people who feel like bitcoin is too high priced for them to enter the market. So, I know that the psychology behind it may make it feel that way. However, the fact that you can buy satoshis, a divisible amount of bitcoin, is great. If these corporations, banks, nation-states, whoever, start looking to buy bitcoin, you have the opportunity to front-run them on an asset class for the first time ever. 

I think that people who understand the scarcity of bitcoin won't care about the price as much. They'll understand that buying satoshis is a better investment strategy long-term. Because of that, the corporations that come into the market will only enrich you. So, it's actually really good if you are in the market currently. For those who are waiting, I don't want to say 'don't miss the boat,' but you won't get the same amount of value you will if you join today. 

JP: In your book, you discuss the potential of using bitcoin and crypto for protesting and raising funds. In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained a lot of momentum. Do you know of protest groups that have incorporated this into the movement? 

IJ: In America, I do not. We actually have a pretty stable USD currency even though we have our problems with it. It's stable enough that these organizations can get money. However, in Nigeria, the End SARS movement, where they were pushing back against police brutality, much like the black community in America, was almost completely funded with bitcoin because their banks were shut down. 

I don't want the U.S. to feel like we are immune to something like this. In the future, there may be a time when bank accounts of people who are protestors or a part of these organizations may be shut down. So, Bitcoin always gives them a plan B, and we have a reference for that that has happened before. 

JP: Bitcoin is transparent in that you can connect an organization's account address to the organization. Do you think Bitcoin is the preferred currency for making donations? Or do you think a private coin might be a better option? 

IJ: Transparency is good for non-profit organizations so that people can see where the money goes. I would actually prefer that private currencies were used by private people and public organizations use a public currency. What that means is we won't have any more of the old "oh yes, I sent money to whatever organization, but I don't know if it actually went to the people." With bitcoin, we can see who it was sent to, how it was spent, and the auditing process can be done outside of just that central company. I think bitcoin is great for non-profit companies. But, private currencies could be explored for private people - so for individuals, absolutely. 

JP: You say that the black community has to put a premium on finance and technology education to ensure economic survival. You get into what that can look like, from starting at home to the educational system to after-school programs - but shifting curriculum can be challenging. Do you know of any resources that schools and programs can look to?

IJ: I don't just talk the talk; I actually walk the walk. I'm a board member for Innovative Learning, an educational group that does after-school and summer camps. We will have the virtual bitcoin summer camp this summer. 

As far as the college level, being able to introduce Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), I'm actually working on that with Visa. We're working with Visa to donate a large sum of money to HBCU blockchain groups so that we can have a pipeline of students who are able to be involved in the crypto community and get crypto jobs in the future. So, I'm doing it myself. Anything I've ever written about, I'm either working on, or I've done it. 

As far as education goes, I hope that there are public schools that will allow me to teach. I doubt it, so I went the private route with after-school programs and summer camps. I think we can get more information that way. I'm not a big fan of waiting for public schools. As a former public school teacher, I know that that takes a lot of time and a lot of people and middlemen in between. 

JP: Where do you see the value of Bitcoin going in the future? One year? Five years? Ten years?

IJ: I think by the end of this year, we will have a $200,000 BTC. In the next five years, we'll see either close to or a $1 million BTC. In the next ten years, I don't have a prediction because, as Max Keiser says, "bitcoin doesn't have a top because fiat currency doesn't have a bottom." So, I can't really predict a price there. But, I will say that based on the total assets in the world, if we somehow enter into that M2 money supply and bonds and the debt that's owed, bitcoin will be a $19-20 million BTC. That's the goal of what we're going for over the next decade.

JP: As a Bitcoin ATM operator, what can CoinFlip do to help promote this vision for Bitcoin and Black America that you have painted in your book?

IJ: Outreach to marginalized communities to show them that they have the opportunity to own a Bitcoin ATM at brick and mortar stores and then that people in that community can buy and sell bitcoin is amazing. In a community that is 25% unbanked, we need an option for people to be able to use cash to buy bitcoin. Everybody doesn't have a bank account. CoinFlip can help with outreach to these marginalized communities and marketing to them so that they understand that it is a benefit for all. The fact that as a brick-and-mortar store, you can earn rent monthly, your community can come and buy bitcoin whenever they feel. Then CoinFlip can get involved in communities that they maybe are not used to serving. I think it's a win-win-win for everybody, and I think CoinFlip is already doing a great job.

Bitcoin Empowers Black America

While still in its infancy when it comes to popularity and use, Bitcoin provides the opportunity for anyone to take part in its unique benefit system. The sooner black Americans take part in the BItcoin economy, the sooner they will be able to champion the technology and use it to bolster communities. 

For more information on this topic, I highly recommend reading Jackson’s book Bitcoin and Black America which can be bought here. Plus, you can preorder the second of the book set to come out later this month. 

In honor of black history month, Jackson is partnering with CashApp to give away 1 million satoshis to black families that participate in the Satoshi Millionaire campaign. All that is required to take part in this giveaway is to join the Black Billionaire website. Find more information on the Satoshi Millionaire campaign here.

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