By Tayllor Johnson
I remember when I first saw the Facebook campaign supporting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. The Internet buzzed with a cry for women to be represented and to replace the face of patriarchy and racism. A Black woman at that! Talk about win-win. Let’s do it!
Upon further reflection: Do we really want to take up space on American currency? The same currency that many people of color don’t get to hold when they live below the poverty line? The same currency that recent college grads like me fight for to pay off our student loans? The same currency that causes bullets to fly in the streets when drug dealers conduct business? The same currency that didn’t help clear the water in Flint, Michigan? The same currency that went missing during the fundraising after Tamir Rice’s murder? Do we want to see the face of one of the most revolutionary activists and humanitarians on that dirty paper? No, thank you.
Spare me the symbolism America. This announcement came around the same time that police officer Peter Liang received community service and probation after killing an unarmed Black man in Brooklyn, New York. After hashtag after hashtag of memories and murders justified by a system meant to protect us. What about the symbolism of the current election in which pundits tell Hillary Clinton to smile more while responding to Donald Trump’s comments on his own penis?
Putting Harriet Tubman’s face on this America’s currency does not make me feel warm and fuzzy. It does not make me feel like America has heard me, my mothers, or my ancestors. It makes me feel cheap. Representation on money would mean a lot more if women received the same pay as men.
Department of Treasury: Please take those $20 bills to the community leaders who risk their lives and sanity every day to keep their communities thriving while confronting forces that work twice as hard to tear those same communities apart. Take those $20 bills and invest in quality education for ALL children that includes the Arts. Take those $20 bills and fund solutions to intractable problems like stopping the deconstruction of marginalized communities, mass incarceration, and sexual assault. Spend those $20 bills to honor people of color and the historical trauma that still plagues us.
Harriet Tubman’s face on the $20 bill will provide a constant reminder of how much more work needs to be done. She will remind me that I cannot be distracted by peace offerings or symbols of an attempt to give women of color the credit for all that we did and that we put up with. She will remind me that I must continue to move our nation and our world toward freedom … by any means necessary.