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Black Crypto: Freedom or Fad?

The full episode transcript for Is Black Crypto Freedom? Or Fad?


Into America

Is Black Crypto Freedom? Or Fad?

Archival Recording:: I'm just excited about bein' here. Why are we celebrating and talking about cryptocurrency in the Black and brown community?

Trymaine Lee: Last week, there was a small rally on Capitol Hill to raise awareness among the Black and Latino community about the power of cryptocurrency.

Archival Recording:: It is time out for the same thing we've doin' the last 157 years. We have got to do somethin' different or we're gonna get and continue to get what we've always gotten. (MUSIC)

Lee: Speakers at the rally talked about the potential this new technology could have on the communities that have long been kept out of traditional banking, investing, and wealth accumulation.

Archival Recording:: And the reason I'm so passionate about this is because if we don't do it, nobody is comin' to save us. And we've gotta understand that it is time to get self-sovereign. It is time for us to take our finances into our own hands. (MUSIC)

Lee: These activists represent a sizable part of the crypto community. The data show that Black and Latino Americans have invested in these digital currencies at higher rates than other groups. Almost a quarter of all Black adults say they already own some cryptocurrency, compared to just 11% of white Americans, according to a Harris poll that surveyed 2,000 people last year.

At its most basic level, cryptocurrency is a digital currency. It's money that lives completely online. But crypto lacks much of the regulation and control from banks or governments, institutions that we normally associate with our money.

Bitcoin is the most famous and established of these currencies. But there's other ones too, including ones made by Black people to benefit the Black community. Crypto has been around for over a decade. But recently it's become a lot more visible in the mainstream. (MUSIC)

Megan Thee Stallion: Hey, hotties. Let's talk about Bitcoin.

Lee: In the last few years, celebrity endorsements of crypto, like this one from Megan Thee Stallion, are all over the place.

Stallion: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. Like a wild stallion, it can't be controlled by anyone.

Lee: Spike Lee even directed and starred in his own ad for a Bitcoin ATM company.

Spike Lee: Our currency is not current. Old money, as rich as it looks, is flat out broke. (MUSIC)

Lee: At this year's Super Bowl, over 100 million people may have caught glimpses of the four ads for crypto related companies. Famous athletes like Odell Beckham, Jr. And Aaron Rodgers have started taking portions of their salaries and endorsement deals in Bitcoin. Even politicians like New York City's first year mayor are getting in on crypto.

Archival Recording:: Eric Adams pledging to take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin.

Lee: Now there are plenty of skeptics out there. They say cryptocurrency is volatile, and risky, and isn't backed up by the federal government if it fails. And some are pushing back on the idea that digital money is the answer to the Black community's wealth disparity.

Dr. Jared Ball: The idea that this is a pathway towards Black liberation or the liberation of any other community is an extension, it's a rebranding of an old, Black, capitalist mythology.

Lee: Now most Americans are still trying to understand the concept of cryptocurrency. But it's not surprising that this new currency might sound appealing to Black folks. Because for as long as we've been in this country, whether through violence or racist policies, we've been mostly shut out of the nation's financial systems. And some Black crypto users, like those at the rally, aren't just talking about making a quick buck for themselves. They are true believers that crypto could be the key to Black liberation.

Lamar Wilson: Bitcoin allows you to say, "Okay, I can put my wealth into this. I can grow my wealth with this." That changes everything, man.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee. And this is Into America. Advocates of cryptocurrency are promising financial freedom and a chance to close the racial wealth gap. So we're diggin' in. Is crypto really worth the hype?

Wilson: My mom, I gave her $50 worth of Bitcoin. I forgot what year is was. That Bitcoin right now is worth about five grand. I gave another guy $10 worth of Bitcoin. And he tells me all the time, "My Bitcoin is worth almost $4,700."

Lee: This is Lamar Wilson, a software engineer and entrepreneur based in Lexington, Kentucky. Lamar is all in on cryptocurrency. But really he's all in on one kind of crypto, Bitcoin. He preaches about it everywhere he can, including on his popular show on Clubhouse called Black Bitcoin Billionaire.

Wilson: What is goin' on? What is goin' on? It's your boy, Big 'Mar. If you wanna jump in, make sure you come to Clubhouse right now to the Black Bitcoin Billionaire. You could jump in on this show. We're gonna talk a little bit about Bitcoin today.

Lee: This show is sponsored by some companies that deal with crypto, like CashApp. So Lamar isn't a neutral observer here. But he says he truly believes Bitcoin can help bring about greater freedom for Black folks.

Wilson: The thing about freedom is that it spreads quickly. When people realize how they can get free, people will do things to try to get more free. A lotta people see all of these cryptocurrencies and they go, "One of these things can make me free." With Bitcoin, I could pass it down generation, for generation, for generation. That gives me a foundation now that I could take off and build on top of.

Lee: All right. You know what? Before we get too deep into this idea of what this new technology might mean, we've gotta take a step back. Cryptocurrency is currency that is housed on computers all over the globe with a technology called blockchain.

And it's decentralized, meaning it operates without government oversight. It's made up of virtual coins that can be traded using a computer or phone. This all started after the crash in 2008 when many people lost confidence in the existing financial systems.

Crypto's origins can be traced back to libertarian ideas. What if there was money that wasn't attached to these traditional institutions that have caused so much financial chaos around the globe? Enter Bitcoin, Lamar's cryptocurrency of choice.

It's the original decentralized cryptocurrency, which means there is no regulatory body, government or otherwise, that oversees it. To this day, Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, and by far the most valuable. Around the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, a single Bitcoin was valued around $5,000.

On April 1st of this year, one coin was worth around $46,000. That's wild, by the way, just to even say it. There's a famous story in the crypto community that illustrates how this value has changed from its early days. Back in 2010, a computer programmer in Florida wanted to buy some pizza.

And he convinced someone to accept Bitcoin instead of cash. He payed $40 worth of Bitcoin for two Papa John's pizzas. Today that amount is worth some $400 million. So people use Bitcoin and other crypto like real money to buy stuff. But they're also investing in it like a stock.

Crypto isn't like a typical investment. If you're buying stock in a car company, for example, you think that company makes good cars. You think they're gonna sell a lot this year. So you put your money in and get a share of the company. But with Bitcoin and crypto, when you buy a coin as an investment, you're actually investing in this idea that the virtual currency itself is valuable and that people will continue to find it valuable. Now if you're still confused, that's okay. Most people are at first, even crypto enthusiasts like Lamar Wilson.

Wilson: I am a software developer. And we had a game platform that we had created. And I went out to California to raise money for it. And one of the VCs we met, he saw the game platform we were buildin'. And he was like, "I see you got a virtual currency in there. Have you heard of Bitcoin?" And I thought he said, "Big," like, B-I-G coin.

Lee: Bigcoin. I'm tryin' to get big coin. But.

Wilson: Yeah. I'm tryin' to get Bitcoin, yeah, big coin. But when we left, I was like, "Man, what was he talkin' about?" My cofounder looked on his phone. And he found Bitcoin. And he said, "I think he's talkin' about Bitcoin."

Lee: This was 2011. Bitcoin had been around for a couple of years at this point. But it was still pretty early. Not a lot of people knew about it. As Lamar started to do more research, he became enamored with this idea of a decentralized currency free from regulations and what it might mean to have money without the traditional strings attached.

Wilson: First of all, it just spoke freedom to me. It was, like, man, I am a software developer. And even if I wanted to, my bank would not let me have access to my own bank account. Right? It's my money, but I can't have access to it and move it around.

Lee: Even if you use online banking, you've likely run into this issue. It's your money in your bank account, but you can only take out so much each day. You can only put in so much or you're depositing a check the old-fashioned way, at the bank. And it might take a few days until you see that money show up.

Wilson: So I saw freedom from that standpoint of me owning the currency, being able to control the currency, and then move the currency wherever I wanted to. And you don't have to trust one entity to tell you this is what the transaction should be or this is what your account should have in it.

That's extremely empowering. Because instead of the bank, who has power over you and tells you where you can send money to, and when you can't, and they're closed on Sunday, well, in the Bitcoin network, whenever you're ready to send a transaction, you could transmit a transaction yourself. And nobody can stop you in the world.

Lee: For Lamar, a software developer with a finance background, it all started to make sense. Here was a secure, anonymous network made up of computers spread all around the world that could make financial transactions more open and equitable.

Wilson: And that's incredibly empowering, especially for Black folk. Right? Because there's a lotta things, a lotta barriers that have been placed in our way in this country. And some of 'em are comin' down. But we understand, like, because of that, I'd rather have somethin' that I can work with, that I can control, and nobody can ever take it away from me. You know?

Lee: Now to be clear, owning Bitcoin is not 100% secure. The tech involves encrypted transactions, but there have been several high profile examples of Bitcoin hacks. And the fact that there is not a centralized body in charge of Bitcoin can make it tricky to get those coins back, as opposed to, say, if your credit card gets stolen, and you can just call the company for them to reimburse you. But Lamar believes risks like that are different than the systemic barriers and inequality that have plagued Black families for centuries. And with Bitcoin, Lamar sees the potential for Black people to finally be free of those barriers.

Wilson: I think Black people would've adopted a whole lotta other stuff if we had more access to it and it wasn't as difficult. Right? Like, the people who wind up overcoming really had to overcome. Right? And this situation is real easy. You get a app, download it, you get some Bitcoin. It just makes sense. If a system is not working for you, the only solution is to find another system.

Lee: Because, Lamar says, this system hasn't worked for Black people for centuries.

Wilson: Let's look at Tulsa. Greenwood in Tulsa's probably the most famous one. These people just came outta slavery and were able to amass wealth. Think about it. You come from slavery. Ain't nobody givin' you a loan, nothin'. Somehow, you figured out how to create a fluent township from nothing. That wealth was not able to be passed down. Why? Because somebody came in and demolished it, burned it up, killed people, like, literally dropped bombs. Right?

Lee: During the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, a violent white mob descended on a thriving neighborhood known as Black Wall Street, killing an estimated 300 Black people and destroying 35 city blocks. In the aftermath, insurance companies refused to pay. And the government, it didn't step in to compensate victims either. Some experts estimate that Black residents lost around $200 million in today's money.

Wilson: These people had true insurance claims. And the insurance companies still have not paid them on their claims. How much is that worth now? And how much of that should be in the hands of the descendants of those ancestors? So when you think about it like that, it's, like, no matter what these people did, these people came from slavery, figured it out themselves, built this amazing system, and it still was snatched from them. That's crazy to me, Trymaine. That's the difference. Bitcoin allows you to say, "Okay, I can put my wealth into this. I can grow my wealth with this." And guess what? Nobody can take it. Period.

Lee: That's the part right there. So I'm, like, transferring the wealthy physically in a home, in a dollar. This cannot be flooded. It can't be burned and bombed. This is a different kind of--

Wilson: It's different.

Lee: --okay. Basically the wealth of Greenwood was vulnerable. It was only as safe as Black folks' ability to protect it from the white power structure. A white mob literally burned it down in these violent attacks where white people stripped land and wealth from Black people with impunity.

Happened all across the country in places like Wilmington, North Carolina and Rosewood, Florida. And then there are the insidious structural policies baked into the financial systems. Racist practices like redlining prevented us from accumulating generational wealth.

And discrimination in banking like difficulty getting good loans, but being targeted by predatory ones, continues to hinder our wealth today. In 2019, the median wealth of a typical white family was almost eight times that of a typical Black family. So when Lamar thinks about currency outside of government control, like Bitcoin, he sees a way for Black people to keep their money protected from white institutional power.

Wilson: Why would you wanna be in the system that has historically, like, held you down? Why would you wanna be bound?

Lee: When I asked Lamar how he pitches crypto to people who don't know a lot or might be a little skeptical, he launched into an anecdote comparing Bitcoin to a can't miss real estate opportunity.

Wilson: We are at that point in Bitcoin where, yeah, people have it, and people are startin' to recognize its value. You got the opportunity right now to buy five dollars a week. You could buy a dollar a day. You could put whatever you want.

If you was buyin' a dollar a day of Manhattan back in the 1700s, you'd still be a millionaire today, your family. Now not you, you ain't gonna probably be here. But, you know, your family would have wealth. They would have amassed wealth that can't be taken from them. That changes everything, man.

Lee: The The numbers show that Black people are getting into crypto at a higher rate than white people. There's that stat we already mentioned that 23% of Black Americans own crypto, compared to 11% of white Americans. And another poll found that Black Americans were more likely to say the decentralized nature of crypto was a positive. Lamar thinks that's great. But others are saying, "Hold up a minute," people like Dr. Jared Ball.

Ball: This is not because Black people are on the cutting edge. This is because Black people have a level of marketing that is targeting them that whites don't. And then most white investors also have a wider array of options in their portfolio. They have more money to invest in different spaces.

Lee: It took a while for Dr. Ball to really pay attention to crypto. He's not a finance guy or a tech guy. He's a media and Africana studies professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore. But at a certain point, he couldn't ignore this increase in Black crypto users.

Ball: So as I started seeing more and more discussion of marketing, from the marketing perspective of cryptocurrency, and I started to see more reports of the largest banks, and hedge funds, and private equity groups involving themselves, but really, and this is where I've almost only ever sort of gotten activated, so to speak, is when the messaging turned in certain aspects to, "This, Black people, is what will save you."

Lee: Dr. Ball started to see more and more messaging in the hip-hop community around crypto, like rap legend, Nas, who is an investor in the crypto exchange company, Coinbase, and flaunted his involvement on DJ Khalid's hit song, Sorry, Not Sorry, and called for people to get into crypto.

Nas: Fuck the coin toss. I'm Coinbase. Basically cryptocurrency Scarface. Join us. There's gotta be more of us. I'm from the ghetto.

Ball: Cryptocurrency, the way it's being promoted primarily to Black and brown people, is a new way of telling this old story that you don't need to engage in political organization. You don't need political power. You just need to get your money right, get your entrepreneurialism together.

And if you invest, now is this being said, if you invest and had invested even earlier, but certainly if you get in now, you can get involved with, as they say, buying real estate on the blockchain, getting early in on the gold rush, and overturning the wealth and material inequality that, again, has existed for hundreds of years.

Lee: The story about gettin' your money right felt familiar to Dr. Ball.

Ball: The idea that this is a pathway towards Black liberation or deliberation of any other community is an extension, it's a rebranding of an old, Black, capitalist mythology that has been imposed on Black people primarily post enslavement.

Lee: Crypto may operate outside of the nation's financial institutions, but Dr. Ball thinks it's still part of the same capitalist system that has shut out Black Americans for centuries.

Ball: And this is not how inequality is going to be closed, this idea that poor people can invest in a new speculative asset or engage in entrepreneurialism as a way to close inequalities and attract or accumulate wealth in ways that those who have accumulated wealth never did themselves.

Lee: Dr. Ball says the Super Bowl with its multiple crypto related ads was a prime example of this Black capitalist message. I asked him about one commercial in particular.

Lebron James: All right. So cordless headphones. You can watch movies through your phone. And y'all got electric cars?

James: Yeah.

James: The future is crunk.

Lee: It's LeBron James giving advice to his younger self.

James: I can't tell you everything. But if you wanna make history, you gotta call your own shots.

Lee: As the music turns up, and the scene is ending, we see the words, "Fortune favors the brave," and then, ""

Ball: Oh, I mean, it's marketing 101. It's perfect. You market to people's emotions, not to their logic. So, of course, I don't know anything about crypto, but I know I wanna be bold. I don't wanna be called a punk. I don't wanna be called late. And then, of course, you're talking also to an audience that has not been properly educated on how capitalism works or the economy. They're not seasoned investors. So, you know, that's exactly what you want.

Lee: We reached out to for comment on their marketing strategy. They did not address their marketing specifically, but told us that central to their mission is quote, "Supporting a more equitable and inclusive financial system. This includes efforts to promote financial literacy and access to resources for traditionally unbanked and underserved communities."

Dr. Ball says part of his problem with crypto is that this original idea of decentralization where governments or corporations aren't in charge of your money has evolved. Because while crypto might've been conceived as a way of leveling the playing field, companies are looking at this digital currency and seeing real life dollar signs.

That's because the easiest way to buy, sell, and trade crypto is through a third party exchange site. And those transactions come with a fee. Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange company, the one that Nas rapped about, they reported that in the last quarter of 2021, they made over $2 billion from transaction fees alone.

At the end of last year, crypto was estimated to be a $3 trillion industry. And when you look at Bitcoin, most of that money is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and I mean really small. An MIT study from last year showed that 0.01% of Bitcoin holders held 27% of all Bitcoins.

Ball: If people look closely at the environment, it is already clear that between the exchanges and the accumulation of Bitcoin, the primary, dominant cryptocurrency that is particularly promoted to Black people, it is already highly centralized with deep pockets of already accumulated wealth among a handful of already billionaires.

In other words, they're saying, "We wanna get rid of banks," but they're replacing it with something that is decentralized in the sense that there's no oversight, but it is centralized in the sense that there is these Coinbase and Bitfinex that are created billions and billions of dollars for the ownership groups of these platforms.

Lee: When you talk about the idea of these kind of incestuous, dirty entanglements that we found ourselves in, aren't we in that already? And if there is new wealth being created, won't it serve Black folks well to have a little piece of it? Because we don't have any now. Right?

So whether it's this dirty business that's been routing us for years or this new speculative one, if you would've purchased Amazon, a stock of Amazon in the beginning, you're probably gettin' paid now. Right? We are in the belly of the proverbial capitalist beast. Right? Things are as they are. Should Black folks try to get in on a little piece of that?

Ball: Well, sort of that's my point. The messaging isn't, "Hey, there's somethin'," you know, you could call it a bubble or somethin' happening, "there's somethin' happening. People are makin' some money. We should just go ahead. And if you have some money to invest, and you have a couple dollars, you wanna, you know, throw in on the crap table or whatever, go ahead and do it, and give it a shot. You might make some money. And good luck."

I might disagree with that also, but that personally, selfishly doesn't get me activated, so to speak. It's that last part that is being part of the messaging that, you know, "Had you invested in this as a community, you would be," you know, "the richest community in the world by now."

There's a lot of ifs, a lot of speculation on the speculation. But it also doesn't speak to the collective. Look, to your point about Amazon, yes, if I or you had invested once upon a time, we might be doing very well at this point. But that would be all that that means.

Even in a white supremacist, capitalist society, Jeff Bezos as a white man creating Amazon has created tremendous wealth for himself, but yet his workers are on strike all around the country or fighting for their rights in labor. So my point is, yes, a handful of people will always do well in this economy.

That is why the economy is set up as it is. But it's the promotion, and the promise, and what I'm calling the crypto-ganda that is telling people, Black in particular that, "This is gonna be revolutionary for you," that, "This is gonna change it for the collective."

That's the part of the mythology that I think is damaging and is meant to attract more investors. So, sure, some people can invest in cryptocurrency, as anyone can invest in any other speculative area of the market. And some may do well. But that's not an answer to collective, institutional inequality.

Lee: So far we've mostly been talkin' about Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, the most famous. But there are thousands of other cryptocurrencies out there, which brings to mind this question. If crypto could be the future for Black people in this country, why not make our own?

Tavonia Evans: We have all of the tools for the community to come and participate in building something, just like they built Bitcoin, you know, when you weren't around. But people don't understand, this has been done and replicated many, many, many times.

Lee: Tavonia Evans is a software engineer and blockchain developer living in Dacula, Georgia. Like Lamar Wilson, Tavonia believes that crypto can mean financial freedom for Black folks. But unlike Lamar, she doesn't think that freedom will come from Bitcoin. Black folks, she says, need their own crypto.

Evans: We gotta see our faces up there in the founders, on the founder team. You know? We have to see that. Our use case involves us being able to see ourselves as a part of this creation, see ourselves grow this from the ground up.

Lee: So in 2017, Tavonia put her blockchain skills to work and created a new currency. She named it Guapcoin. Its slogan is, "Currency for the culture." And the stated mission is to quote, "Amplify the economic voice of the Black community." Talk to us specifically about Guapcoin, the coin you created?

Evans: Well, thank you. I'm glad you added in with the coin I created. 'Cause it's our coin. It's not mine anymore. The idea of decentralization is to create somethin' that could belong to all of us. And I have an equal say or equal position in this currency as everyone else does. Right? That's the idea. So I built this initially waiting for us to show up.

Lee: Right now, Guapcoin has somewhere around 19,000 unique wallet holders. At the beginning of the month, the value for one Guapcoin was less than two and a half cents. And there's about $1.2 million worth of Guapcoin out in the world right now. Tavonia's currency is one of roughly 10,000 different crypto coins available. None of them come close to Bitcoin, which has millions of owners and billions of dollars in wealth.

Evans: And even at our fifth year, we're still in our infantile stages. We still have more growing to do.

Lee: Tavonia is ready to put in the work, motivated by her own family's history with stolen wealth.

Evans: My dad's whole family is from Wilmington, North Carolina. And Wilmington, North Carolina is, you know, infamous for the Wilmington Riots.

Lee: In the decades after the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina was a thriving majority Black city. But in 1898, white supremacists rioted and staged a coup, forcing over 100 Black officials from their government posts. The mob killed dozens, possibly hundreds of Black people, and forced many more from their homes, destroying the community's wealth.

Evans: My dad used to tell me how my great grandmother used to hide them in the closet when the intimidators would come through or hide them places and stuff like that. But lookin' at my dad, people like my dad, and how he's still dealin' with the trauma of his childhood, and the idea that Black people can't acquire, or do anything, or keep anything, or whatever.

So he looks at me like I'm crazy when I'm talkin' about Guapcoin each and every time. You know? He has been the person that I've had the hardest time to get to understand that we can actually do this. And I want us to recapture that value, and take that value, and invest it into ourselves and our community.

Lee: I think that makes total sense in terms of a social and emotional sense to see us reflected in this burgeoning thing, let alone maybe get paid, and build some wealth outta this. But if someone buys Guapcoin, like, right now, what are they actually getting? And can they use it? Like, how can they take Guapcoin and use it in the actual, physical world?

Evans: Well, the thing is, we do have a value. You know? So that's very important. Literally at the current time, we're floating anywhere between two to five cent per coin. And that's great for somethin' that came from nothing, you know, to actually have a value. Right?

But what adds more value is you getting involved. We never had a problem with merchants wanting to adopt it. Like, merchant adoption is, like, great. Our issue is creating the tools so it makes it easy for merchants to adopt it and it makes it easy for consumers to use it.

And we want people to understand, it's not just a money makin' scheme like, "Oh, I'm gonna get in and I'm gonna make money." No, this is money. We want people to understand that crypto is money. They're accepting crypto all over. And pretty soon that may be the only thing they accept. Right? So why not have a foothold in it now before, you know, everything gets closed up?

Lee: Tavonia says there are about 100 merchants that accept payment in Guapcoin, like an Afrofuturist bookstore in Connecticut and a paper company in Baltimore. We talked to a handful of these businesses, all Black owned. And they told us they started accepting Guapcoin because they truly believe this currency is part of a better future for Black folks.

Evans: It starts with people acceptin' it. And that was the beautiful thing. Like, even when you go back in Bitcoin history, the first major transaction recorded was the pizza. Right? So it's like, "Will you accept this for pizza?" And someone said, "Yes." You know?

And that's the thing. What people will accept for value depends on what the value is that the people bring. You know what I mean? So if we have our value, our collective value, and that's what we're bringin' to the table, people are going to accept that as a value, as, you know, legal tender. This has been done since the beginning of time. You know? So we now have that opportunity.

Lee: But to make this Guapcoin dream a reality, Tavonia needs more users. Guapcoin already has those 19,000 wallet holders. But the goal is to get to two million by next summer.

Evans: The easiest thing is actually creating a currency. But cryptocurrencies are not built on just a currency. 90% of a cryptocurrency is the community. So that is the hardest part to build is the community.

Lee: Because to build the community, people need to exchange their own money for Guapcoin.

Evans: You know, and I tell people, it's not investing, it's divesting. Every dollar that you're divesting, you're now pledging that this is the currency that you wanna use and you're gonna be using. And you're helping to add to the value, so that, you know, more merchants can accept it readily.

Lee: Tavonia considers herself upper middle class. So putting some of her money into Guapcoin might not be as risky as it would be for someone lower on the economic scale. She says she tells people to only put in what they can afford, especially when she's talking to more vulnerable communities.

And when you talk to some of the elders, and you talk about your father's experience, and you're explaining to them your vision, and this world of crypto, and all the things that you just explained to me, how do you have that conversation? Like, what is your pitch to folks who have seen a lot and have every right to be skeptical of all this newfangled everything? 'Cause it's always geared against us. How do you talk to those folks?

Evans: Well, you know what? I've had excellent luck with the grandmothers. The grandmothers love it. And they're like, "Where can I get it?" They pull out their phones. They wanna install the wallets. And my grandmother that just passed away in January, she was 99.

So she would always ask me, "What's goin' on with Guapcoin? What progress have you made?" I do understand that when it comes to our relationship with this country, the grandfathers have a lot less trust in there being the ability for us to do something so great. There's a lot less trust there. But when it comes to, like, we're ready to get down with it, the grandmothers are with it.

Lee: Cryptocurrency and this grand vision of the future, it's not that simple. Dr. Jared Ball, the skeptic from Morgan State University, says that's part of his concern. As he's grown more outspoken against crypto, many people have told him, "Well, you just don't understand the technology. You don't understand how this actually works."

Ball: To some of the people I've debated on this issue, you're right. I'm not as smart in the market as you are. I'm not as good a business person as you are. I shouldn't have to be. Black people as a collective shouldn't have to be business geniuses to not be oppressed this way. So that's why I'm simply saying--

Lee: That's right.

Ball: --go on, be the genius you are. You know? God speed. You know what I'm sayin'?

Lee: But that doesn't mean Dr. Ball is defending the status quo.

Ball: I am not an advocate of the current economic system. I am not an advocate of what is happening now. I am just clear that this is not the solution and is part of, I would argue, an offensive distraction from us getting back to the questions of, where do we get political power, and how do we assure that whatever wealth gets created is distributed so this level of inequality isn't possible?

Lee: Through all the skepticism, Lamar Wilson is adamant that freedom can be at least partly achieved through crypto. Is it hyperbole when you say that, you know, Bitcoin could mean liberation for Black people, right, or freedom for Black people?

Wilson: Yeah. It's not a could mean. It is. The moment you start taking strides toward freedom, and you start using tools of freedom, yeah, you're already more free. I think we need to own land. We need to own our means of energy production. We need to own our means of food production. And then we have Bitcoin as that financial connector, again, of that type of economy. These are the things that, like, we need to start thinking about as well, from my perspective. I'm not gonna say should. But for me, yeah.

Lee: It's a tool for ultimate liberation of Black people. Right? It's a prong in the--

Wilson: A tool. Yeah, it's not the tool.

Lee: --right. Gotcha.

Wilson: Yeah. And so all the decisions of you moving toward freedom is what's going to make you ultimately free. Period.

Lee: All right, y'all. Lots to think about this week. If you have more thoughts or questions on crypto, send us an email. It's Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the handle @intoamericapod. You can tweet me @trymainelee. That's @trymainelee, my full name.

One more thought. You heard us briefly talk about the Tulsa Race Massacre and the coup in Wilmington, North Carolina. If you wanna hear more about that history, you can check out a few of our episodes from last year called, American Coup, and a two-parter called, Blood on Black Wall Street. We talked with descendants of those who lived through these horrific times and the long, lingering effects that still ripple through their communities today.

Into America is produced by Sojourner Ahebee, Isabel Angell, Allison Bailey, Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs, and Joshua Sirotiak. Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Aisha Turner. I'm Trymaine Lee. Take care of yourselves and be good to each other. We'll see you next Thursday.