Coinbase Pitches Crypto As a Solution for Racial Inequality in Finance

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To mark Black History Month, Coinbase has launched an advertising campaign with the pitch that cryptocurrencies can help tackle racial injustice in the financial sector.

As part of the campaign, the exchange published a blog post on Feb. 13 with the results of a survey it conducted in the United States and United Kingdom.

The crux of Coinbase’s survey centers on the notion that blockchain and cryptocurrencies, as trustless technologies with pseudonymous functionality, would be more color-blind than traditional financial services. 

Based on a sample of 5,126 respondents, Coinbase’s data appears to indicate that just one in three Black Americans perceive the financial system as equally accessible to people of all ethnicities. 

Moreover, twice as many Black Americans reported that they had been negatively impacted by their race or gender within the traditional financial system — 48% as compared with 24% of White Americans.

This negative experience ostensibly translates into an increased receptivity to cryptocurrencies — 70% of Black Americans responded that they were interested in learning more about crypto, as compared with 42% of White Americans.

A panacea for social justice?

As one voice in support of crypto’s being equitable financial instrument, Coinbase cites Vernon Johnson, co-founder and chief technical officer of blockchain startup Yup. He argues that:

“Many cryptocurrency transactions are pseudonymous and don’t require the disclosure of your real world identity, which may ease some of the apprehensions about racial discrimination in Finance 1.0. It becomes much harder to perceive racial identity in a world where people’s real identities are obfuscated.”

Johnson adds that, with cryptocurrencies, access to financial services relies solely on individuals’ digital reputation and transaction history — dispensing with the need for in-person meetings or the disclosure of identity documents.

However, as Know Your Customer rules continue to be tightened across countries — Coinbase itself requires photo I.D. for registration — this hard and fast line between crypto and traditional finance when it comes to pseudonymity is arguably eroding.

Indeed, the crypto space itself is also prone to its own biases. As previously reported, the vast majority of Bitcoin community engagement is male and can often be tone-deaf regarding the lack of women taking part in the space. In 2018, only 3 of the 88 speakers at the North American Bitcoin Conference were women, while the conference after-party was held at a strip club.