Harriet_Tubman_late_in_life3

I having mixed feelings. On the one hand I am ecstatic that Harriet Tubman will be the face of the new $20 bill. For once, every American and visitor will have to face a defiant Black woman as a primary means of conducting their daily affairs. This is a slap in the face of every open and closeted white supremacist, and nothing short of avoiding currency altogether can keep them from acknowledging the magnitude of this change.

But what does it truly mean to have a woman, a Black woman, who was formerly a slave, her body formerly a monetary instrument, to be used once again on a piece of currency? That the same body conjured such shock and anger amongst Americans, that it would be worth a premium bounty of $40,000? I would venture to say that it seems ironic, if not unabashedly shameful. That the black body was repeatedly passed between hands for centuries, in an emotionless, matter-of-fact manner only to come full circle several hundred years later is pretty deep. How long after the initial hype of the new Harriets wear off will people begin to look at that note with less enthusiasm, and just a symbol of day to day commerce, her face regularly smudged with the countless hands of strangers, crumpled in pockets, stained, ripped, lost, left behind. What legacy is this?

The new Harriets will be amazing, but lets not forget that such a move is problematic and can be viewed as tokenism at best. Sure, we may add the face of this Black woman to the American monetary system, but this is in no way penance for over 400 years of the atrocities and the after effects born of the slave system.