NEW MONEY is a recap of the week in Bitcoin, published by Adam Pokornicky of DAIM Digital, a Registered Investment Advisor for Bitcoin and Digital Assets. Follow me @callmethebear . A special thanks this week to @marlimarll for context and ensuring accuracy.
In this week’s issue of New Money, instead of talking about Bitcoin, I’ve decided to use this space to touch on love, racism, whiteness, inequality, silence, speaking out, and being an ally to black people.
With everything happening around us fueled by race and inequality, I wanted to share something personal that could perhaps be helpful to someone else, much like someone else helped me. This is not intended to be a lecture or effort to shame anyone or some expert hot take analysis on the complex issues that surround us, but rather a personal anecdote from my life and how I’ve come to terms with my whiteness and unintentional racism to educate myself, empathize, speak up when I can in white spaces and be an ally to my girlfriend of almost 7 years who is black.
I am by no means an expert on race and still make plenty of mistakes. I’m better today then I was 5 years ago but truthfully I’m mostly a work-in-progress in being the best ally I can be to my partner and black people in general. I understand that most of my audience is white, so I wrote this week’s issue of New Money with the hope that other non-Black people might find it useful in some way.
“I’m not racist”
I started dating my girlfriend Marlin at the beginning of summer 2013. I had met her almost a year prior in New York City through a mutual friend and it might’ve been love at first sight. I’m not really sure if my early fascination with her was because she was black and I was a white guy that had never dated a person of color before, but from the moment I met her, I couldn’t seem to get her out of my head. We didn’t run into each for another 6 months but the next time around I shot my shot and asked her out. After a few months of cat and mouse and dates here and there, we started seeing each other more seriously. By the end of summer 2013, I knew I wanted her in my life moving forward. She was motivated, witty, competitive, kind, ambitious, fastidious, smart, easy-going and super fun to be around. She also loved dogs and took an immediate liking to my cavapoo Maggie. We started officially dating early September 2013, spending the next 9 months in the honeymoon phase, hanging out as time permitted as she balanced work, studying for GMATs, and applying to business schools. By late Spring of 2014, she had been accepted to Wharton and we began preparing for her move to Philadelphia unsure of our future with her 99 miles away while I was still living in NYC.
As she began her first year at Wharton, she immediately actively involved herself in the African American MBA Association, Wharton Women in Business, and many other student groups. I found myself visiting Philly regularly because it was hard to be away from her. There, I frequently ended up at events, dinners, performances, and Thursday pubs, connecting with her classmates, friends, and fellow club members that all looked very different from me and had very different life experiences. Finally, outside of Wall Street and the NYC social scene, I appreciated learning about different backgrounds and engaging in thoughtful discussions about national and global events and what our roles in them were, or could be. These conversations helped open my perspective as Donald Trump announced his bid for the Presidency in 2015.
With his MAGA theme, Trump’s platform became front and center, tapping into the angst and economic hardship that many hardworking (white) Americans had been feeling since the 08-09 financial crisis while alienating brown and black people in just about every possible way. Trump vs. Clinton appeared to many Americans as a choice between something new and risky, vs. something old and corrupt. I myself was simply sick of old and corrupt. I wanted and still want the system to change because I was angry about a parasitic and rigged system that I watched grow stronger from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis where greed and risk were rewarded with bailouts and bonuses. Wall Street and Corporations had captured our political system. America was escalating its presence abroad, spreading its empire across the world through illegal wars, interventions, and bombings, while selling out its citizens at home. The Clinton family represented everything I believed had gone wrong - American citizenry trapped in a perverted form of crony capitalism, corporate oligarchy, and socialism for the rich. I harbor contempt for everyone in power. Most people can’t handle that idea because they want me to be part of their stupid little team. I supported Bernie Sanders so I kept an open mind for Trump. That’s when topics of racism and inequality began creating a wedge between Marlin and me.
In her and many of her peers’ view, Trump’s rhetoric had become dangerously and unforgivingly racist and sexist. Our conversations began turning towards broader issues of racism, police, power, mass incarceration, black on black crime, generational wealth, and black poverty. She was having real, active conversations with her classmates about race, their life experiences being black, and the realities their communities faced day-to-day. Meanwhile, here I was at home, a white man, deeply in love with his black partner, tolerating racially insensitive rhetoric because more than anything I just wanted to see the financial system changed. Also: we had a Black president. Racist words and acts were openly condemned in my communities. The fact is until she raised it, racism wasn’t even really an issue to me.
I of course did not see myself as racist. I was dating a black woman, and I grew up in a uniquely integrated community in PG County, MD (recently featured in the KD documentary on Showtime). My hometown of Bowie, MD was extremely diverse and our school systems, due to desegregation laws after Brown vs Board of Ed, ensured that black and white kids went to school together. My parents were government workers. We were neither poor nor rich and the majority of my high school classmates were black, I played varsity basketball and almost all of my teammates and opponents were black. Black and white families lived peacefully amongst each other, with several neighborhoods around us among the wealthiest black communities in America. I had assumed everyone experienced diversity similarly to me but even my own experience was flawed from reality.
Coming to terms with racism is complicated for white people
As our discussions around race got more proactive and heated, I could feel her getting more and more frustrated with me about not coming to terms with the realities that black people dealt with on a daily basis and my own privilege. She would share links, videos, stories, and books with me regularly. Trump’s rhetoric picked up and Trayvon Martin was a topic we’d keep coming back to. For the lives of her black younger brother and her community, I needed to understand the urgency to reject Trump’s message. I have to admit now, for a while I was indifferent to Trayvon. I held onto the idea that there had to be more to that situation that we might never know. I held on to my whiteness and my own lived experience. At the time I was willfully naive to volumes of evidence of black people disproportionately over-policed and black lives taken away without due cause or prosecution. I remember at one point sitting on the couch in her Rittenhouse Square studio. A tear of sadness dripped down her face that many of us have had at one point when we realize we’re not being heard when the person we love might not be the right person for you.
The next day, she sent me a link to two articles: "The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy" and “My Husband’s Unconscious Racism Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage” written by a black woman married to a white man. (the original post was in ‘The Establishment’ which is no longer online). Reading stories about well-meaning white people helped me identify where I was at and even motivated me to reach out to the author for advice. To this day, I am grateful to her for telling her story and taking the time to share her private thoughts with me.
When it comes to the topic of race, white people (read: me, at that point), tend to be defensive about our whiteness and indifferent towards the black experience. Especially when we live in our own white-dominated communities (many of us do) and have our own life struggles (we all do), it’s frankly easy to look away from challenges acutely experienced by another race.
At the same time, no one wants to be accused of being racist. As I got more educated about the black experience, I slowly came to understand that our society is deeply racist and saying or believing you aren’t racist, is not enough to help fix it. I thought that, by not being actively racist, I was already making things better and the issues didn’t apply to me. But eventually, I learned you’re either racist or anti-racist. There’s not an in-between. The great Martin Luther King, Jr. called this out decades ago in his struggle for equal rights:
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
- MLK Jr (Letters From Birmingham Jail)
The articles above helped me be open and honest about my own biases by viewing it from the lens of other people that were similar to me without feeling the pressure to defend myself. It definitely allowed me to view everything differently. Reading a story that I could relate to helped me understand my role (albeit passive) in racism. It was an aha moment and it fundamentally changed the way I thought about my own racism and whiteness. I encourage you to find resources, people, and/or lived experiences you connect with to help you shape how you view your role in racism in your communities. Marlin was and still is, the person I see myself spending the rest of my life with. I see us eventually having kids that will be non-white and, like any parent, I want to build towards a better world for them.
If you want to do the work, you can
So like any person that wants something bad enough, I began researching and doing the work. As I try to evolve as a human and a partner, it's essential in my mind to the future of our relationship and me as a person that I understand not only the way the world engages her as a black woman and the way she moves through it, but how I consider those actions and reactions so that I can recognize the behaviors and actions around me that I previously maybe have ignored. I began making changes in my personal life, including checking the racism of family and friends. Over the past 4 years, I have made it a priority that my ally work is in White spaces, not Black ones. I sometimes can get a little aggressive with friends in the way I confront them and am working on that too. As a result, I’ve shed friends and colleagues I once was close with and have built meaningfully new friendships and relationships with people that are doing the work and looking beyond themselves.
Seven years into our relationship, I’m still figuring this out as I go. While I don't see myself as racist, I can admit that simply being white allows for unconscious racism to exist and manifest unintentionally. Marlin and I work together and support each other as we process these things as they come up. Our relationship is stronger than ever and we’ve gotten very comfortable speaking about issues that in the past would have put me on the defensive and hurt my feelings.
What I’ve learned along the way so far is that building awareness of how racism manifests in our thoughts, actions and assumptions are key. Working on it on an ongoing basis key. I understand that I may not always get it right and that’s ok but recognizing when I miss something or didn't see what I was doing is key too. One thing is for sure, you don’t just wake up being woke one day. The work never ends and all the little things add up.
For myself, I’ve seen the research of how pervasive racism is and how it impacts so many millions of lives. I understand the urgency to be anti-racist and ensure that the leaders we choose to represent us are at the very least not overtly racist and at best anti-racist as well. Dismantling racism will take constant active work and will only be further delayed by leaders who ignore it and/or deny it exists and citizens who are content with the “tranquility of their lives and status quo”.
If you don’t understand why protests have picked up across America or get angrier about the riots and the looting then you do about the loss of human life then you probably need to rethink what you are prioritizing. As MLK Jr shared with us long ago, riots are the language of the unheard. Civil and social unrest don’t appear out of thin air. We’re seeing people who have been pushed to the edge who have had enough. The seeds were planted long ago, nurtured in most neighborhoods and communities by authorities that don’t seem to be concerned with its humanity and by a society that seemingly pays lip service to justice and equality. Most of us live insulated lives, we’re busy dealing with life and our own problems and do not have to confront race daily, allowing us to turn away.
Listen, speak out in white spaces, don’t be silent
If you want an end to riots, then learn to listen. Don't question. Don't condemn. Listen. Don’t fight the idea that ending racism is so controversial. Don’t put the labor on black people to educate you. Stop being content with the status quo and being indifferent towards the well being of the most vulnerable around us.
Stop allowing our politicians and leaders to divide us. Don’t let what political party you identify with create a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters. No one should have to explain to you that you should care about other people, including our brothers and sisters that look different than you and I. No one should have to convince or debate you about how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy towards millions of fellow human beings who’s voices go unheard and whose lives are threatened on a daily basis.
Allied work should not be limited to posting on Instagram and Facebook when hashtags are trending and building social currency by appearing woke online. Start speaking out in white spaces. Call out implicit and explicit racism with friends, colleagues, social networks, and neighborhood/communities, even if it’s uncomfortable. Stop being silent and a bystander, for silence is, in essence being morally complicit in the act itself. When you have the opportunity to speak out do it knowing your voice is amplifying the voices of those who are vulnerable and mostly unheard. Do it consciously and subconsciously. Maybe then, justice can be met and true freedom for all will come.
5 Ways you can help
Know your history - educate yourself on anti-blackness, systemic oppression, privilege and the role you and your communities play in upholding systems of white supremacy
Calling In - Call your family, friends and community leaders in dialogue around anti-blackness and violence against the black community
Stop Appropriation - stop picking apart pieces of black culture for your convenience, profit, and social currency
Listen. Don’t Labor - Listen to resources from Black women, Black community, Black leaders, Black activists, Black authors, and Black podcasters. Do NOT put the labor on black people to educate you
Stay Updated - Follow the hashtags to stay update on continuing action. #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeforJoaoPedro #DreasjonReed #IrunwithMaud #Icantbreathe
If you’ve made it this far and are still reading this, I hope me sharing my own experience was helpful in some way. I’ve got a lifetime of work ahead and I’m gonna mess up plenty along the way. I encourage you to challenge yourself and be honest about where you think you are when it comes to race. Continue to read and understand perspectives that vary from your own. Learning about other lived experiences helps us manage our journey - with love, kindness, respect, understanding, and freedom to be who we are - while making the effort to become better than we are.
I’m sure there will be some pushback and blowback. That is of course what white fragility is all about. For those that found this helpful and are looking for some materials to read, I've provided some books, podcasts, Instagram handles, links, and videos below that might be helpful for your own journey. Please share this with your networks or anyone you think could benefit from it. Good luck.
Me and White Supremacy - Layla Saad
Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-black Power Movement - Bettye Collier-Thomas, V.P. Franklin, Professor of History
1619: The Long Shadow of American Slavery - NY Times series
Good Ancestor Podcast - Layla Saad
Speaking of Racism Podcast - Jermaine Fowler
The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy - Yawo Brown
Death in Black and White - What America Fails to See - Michael Eric Dyson
The Origins of the Phrase 'Black-on-Black Crime' - Brentin Mock
Letters From Birmingham Jail - MLK Jr
Becoming An Agent Of Whiteness - Talynn Kel
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack - Peggy McIntosh
White Privilege Checklist ✅- Peggy McIntosh
The Case for Reparations - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Under Our Skin: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? - Seattle Times
Yes, You Can Measure White Privilege - The Root
Where White Privilege Came From - Allan G. Johnson
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment - Patricia Hill Collins
This is Why I Bitcoin:
While I’m hesitant to talk about Bitcoin at all, I do believe that wealth and power are at the root of racism and inequality. I believe Bitcoin offers a peaceful protest to monetize your anger and opt-out for something better, allowing you to vote with your money by stripping power from the very system that benefits the few at the expense of the many creating systematic inequality through wealth extraction, debt-serfdom, and consolidated power.
This is why I Bitcoin.
In next week’s issue of new money, I will expand on these thoughts and share why Bitcoin is a peaceful protest and why believing in it with your money offers a way forward. In the meantime, read this piece from our friends at Arca Financial:
Spread the Word 🗣
While I know this week’s post was not about Bitcoin, if you know anyone interested in Bitcoin, that might want to keep up on the news, learn or stay in the loop, please share this newsletter with them. I appreciate your support.