OneUnited Bank Faces Criticism Over Harriet Tubman 'Wakanda Forever' Debit Card for Black History Month

OneUnited Bank, the largest black-owned financial institution in the U.S., is facing ridicule for releasing a new Harriet Tubman debit card to coincide with Black History Month.

Tubman freed dozens of slaves after escaping from slavery herself in the 19th century. OneUnited Bank described its card as a "symbol of black empowerment" in 2020.

The bank also said the introduction of the card "will help pave the way" for Tubman to appear on the $20 bill as the U.S. Treasury proposed back in 2016.

However, many people on social media criticized the bank for using an image of a woman who fought against slavery to promote a capitalistic idea.

"Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of fearless organizing and rebellion against a sadistic capitalist enterprise (slavery)," tweeted rapper Noname. "Put Oprah on yall visa card and go."

Sports reporter Norman Seawright III added: "Harriet Tubman ain't escort all those slaves to freedom for y'all to do this...and y'all should know better."

Y’all will commodify literally anything. Nothing is sacred.

— R u t h H o p k i n s (@RuthH_Hopkins) February 13, 2020

You think Harriet Tubman was walking around with a 14.49% - 24.49% variable APR with a 5% balance transfer fee whe-

— Patrick Lucas Austin (@patbits) February 13, 2020

it's amazing how differently the idea of harriet tubman on u.s. legal tender feels than putting her face on a debit card.

— bomani (@bomani_jones) February 14, 2020

*If Harriet Tubman sold mixtapes

— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) February 14, 2020

When Kristy sees me pull out my Harriet Tubman VISA card at Starbucks

— Maceo Boyce (@maceoboyce) February 14, 2020

Others also mocked the card for appearing to show Tubman performing the "Wakanda forever" salute from the Marvel superhero movie Black Panther.

"I'm still struggling to get to grips with the fact that OneUnited Bank actually made Harriet Tubman, someone who would have absolutely hated being used for political capital by them, do the 'Wakanda Forever' pose on a debit card," wrote esports journalist Richard Lewis on Twitter, calling it "insane."

"Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than Harriet Tubman hitting the Wakanda salute on debit cards," marketer Frederick Joseph added in reference to a quote from Black Panther."

The image on the card is a version of "The Conqueror" painting by artist Addonis Parker.

This is so disrespectful..... Harriet Tubman throwing up the Wakanda sign. This is NOT #ForTheCulture

— Billie Jean Shaw (@BillieJeanTV) February 14, 2020


— Marv (@ofstarvinmarrv) February 13, 2020

I’m getting this card and all of my future transactions will go down like this:

“And how will you be paying for this, ma’am?”

“It depends. Wakanda payment methods do you accept?”

Slams down Harriet Tubman Wakanda Card. 😁

— Dr. Victoria Dooley (@DrDooleyMD) February 14, 2020

Ive always said that if there's anything on this Earth that I've always wanted on my debit card it woul be Harriet Tubman throwing up "Wakanda Forever"

— y'all some bammas (@Deion_Slanders) February 13, 2020

One United Bank has HARRIET TUBMAN throwing up the whole Wakanda salute. Y’all.

— StraightWhiteMaleOfColor (@KirkWrites79) February 14, 2020

mfw I saw that Harriet Tubman doing the Wakanda Salute on a bank card foolishness.

— Princess Azula Blocked Me (@TheRedHeadWrite) February 14, 2020

Oh Who knew Harriet had the railroad reach Wakanda?

— Ike McBride (@IkeMcbride) February 14, 2020

Speaking to Newsweek, Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, said the hand gesture seen used by Tubman is actually sign language for love.

"Harriet Tubman sacrificed her life for the love of others. Black love an important message, especially right now," Williams said.

The bank also said Tubman's gesture is a symbol of love in a tweet appearing to respond to the criticism. "Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of love—love that causes you to sacrifice everything, including your own life," the bank tweeted.

"The gesture is the sign language symbol for love. It's so important that we love ourselves."

Williams also denied that using Tubman's image on a debit card in any way defaces what she stood for.

"Our to be unapologetically black, to fight for social justice, with an end goal to close the racial wealth gap," Williams said.

"Without that context, the Harriet Tubman Card may be misinterpreted. However, we respect all opinions, even if they're not positive. We still believe the card is a celebration of Harriet Tubman's legacy and she deserves to be on the $20 bill."

The Harriet Tubman debit card is the first limited edition card offered by OneUnited Bank and will only be available this year.

As well as the Tubman card, OneUnited Bank will also promote the "Right to Vote" theme for Black History Month in order to "elevate the #BankBlack and #BuyBlack Movements to the next level and beyond."

OneUnited Bank was criticized for the release of its Harriet Tubman debit card. OneUnited Bank