OneUnited Bank chose to respond with love amid the hate and ridicule it received over its new limited-edition debit cards honoring trailblazer and abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
On Thursday, the nation’s largest Black-owned bank debuted a vibrant Visa card bearing Tubman’s likeness in celebration of Black History Month 2020. A statement posted to its website lauded the changemaker for her countless contributions to the fight for freedom, painting her as the epitome of Black empowerment.
“We have the power to place Harriet Tubman on a global payment device in celebration of Black History Month, [and] in tribute to the many others who freed enslaved people,” the bank said. “This symbol of Black empowerment in 2020 will pave the way for the Harriet Tubman design on the $20 bill.”
The response it received online, however, probably wasn’t what they expected.
The image, taken from a painting by world-renowned artist Addonis Parker, depicts a stone-faced Tubman flashing what appears to be the Wakanda salute, made famous in the 2018 Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther.” Hilarity ensued, and social media users let the jokes fly.
“Wakanda shit is this?” one user commented.
“DO YOU THINK HARRIET TUBMAN WAS WALKING AROUND SALUTING WAKANDA WHILE SHE WAS TAKING SLAVES???? TO FREEDOM?”another critic chimed in.
Facing backlash, OneUnited explained the intent behind Tubman’s pose and clarified that her “Wakanda salute” is actually the American Sign Language gesture for love.
“Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of love — love that causes you to sacrifice everything, including your own life,” the bank wrote in a Twitter post. “The gesture is the sign language symbol for love. It is so important that we love ourselves.
Many said they could appreciate OneUnited’s efforts to honor Tubman, however, others continued to trash the bank for its “tone deaf” and questionable artwork.
See more reactions below:
“Y’all know our ancestors would be rolling in their graves at this,” a Twitter user opined.
Another wrote: “Nah. That card is a disrespect. Just take it down and apologize. We’re not supporting that foolishness.”