Protests against police brutality and racial discrimination have spread through the United States and beyond.
The response from crypto companies to the Black Lives Matter movement has been muted.
Although many crypto firms have offered messages of support, there have been few concrete commitments to improve employee diversity or better serve communities of color.
The horrific death of African American George Floyd in police custody last month has prompted an enormous reaction, with ongoing protests against police brutality and racial discrimination erupting throughout the United States and beyond.
Companies who’ve previously sat out the debate have been forced to take a stand on the issue, with many sharing messages of support for racial justice, and laying out plans to enact changes or contribute significant resources towards inclusion and diversity.
The response from the crypto industry, though, has been more muted. Many businesses, exchanges, and foundations in the space have failed to comment on the death of George Floyd, the protests, or the Black Lives Matter movement. Where companies have offered messages of support, there have been few concrete commitments to improve employee diversity or better serve communities of color.
In the view of Robert Greenfield IV, President and CEO of benefit corporation Emerging Impact, the crypto community’s response to the events of the last couple weeks has been “really weak and almost non-existent.”
“In particular, that’s troublesome because this blockchain ethos, the reason why a lot of us got into this space, especially in the early days, was to make systematic change, right?” he told Decrypt. “It was to disintermediate power centers and government and finance, and every aspect of life, so that people who are being taken advantage of by the system could afford resources more cheaply, but also people who don’t have any access at all could gain that type of access.”
He argued that the crypto community has applied its decentralized approach in an “extremely selective” way. “It doesn’t apply to people who are getting killed by police unarmed, but it does apply to a startup that wants to get funded by the Ethereum Foundation at Devcon,” he said. “That’s really unacceptable, and I think people forget that all of the movement of technology as a whole—not just blockchain—is a multicultural effort.”
Some blockchain and crypto firms have spoken out. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO at Ripple, tweeted that he stood in solidarity with anyone fighting for black lives, adding, “We need to be proactively anti-racist—presently and in the future—and completely change the way that we see and support our communities of color. This is about life and death.” Ripple also tweeted a message on the subject, specifically calling out the names of Floyd and other black Americans killed in recent months, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong also shared comments on the situation, with a tweet thread that began, “I want to unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter.” He wrote about systemic racism and conversations that he had with black Coinbase employees, and finished by pledging to expand his efforts with nonprofit platform GiveCrypto. He said that Coinbase would also contribute $250,000 across GiveCrypto and four other organizations chosen by employees, and that the exchange would match up to another $250,000 contributed by employees
Joseph Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum and founder of Consensys (which, for disclosure, funds an editorially independent Decrypt), tweeted, “Many in our company and community protested this week in solidarity with Black lives and in response to institutionalized racism and the disproportionate violence Black people have endured.” He went on to write, “We need to do more as a company and ecosystem to acknowledge racism where it occurs, enable more diverse participants to build new technologies, and support the people and organizations already doing this work.”