Combat banking discrimination. Reduce financial disparities. Push the need for broadband access.
Opportunities like this can come with learning more about how we can utilize and track the movement of cryptocurrency, a decentralized, deregulated form of investing in, buying and selling online currency.
Don’t worry, we’ve done the seemingly hard work of getting to know the basics of cryptocurrency for you by speaking with one of CRC’s Economic Equity Promotoras Renee DeLeon, who leads specialized financial wellness workshops aimed at Black, Indigenous, People of Color youth in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods in California. DeLeon discusses the ins and outs of this growing form of financial technology, and what we should be paying attention to as cryptocurrency becomes the leading form of alternative banking.
Q: The topic of Cryptocurrency is really hot right now, and one that many people would like to know more about. Can you tell us in a few words what cryptocurrency is i.e. what are its origins and what is it in response to?
A: Cryptocurrency is digital or virtual currency often referred to as a “coin.” It gained initial popularity in 2009. In response to modern banking systems, it’s considered something that can be managed in a decentralized manner via the blockchain. Cryptocurrency gained newfound popularity during the pandemic when many people were feeling the financial and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Q: How would someone start investing in cryptocurrency?
A: Cryptocurrency is accessible to almost anyone with a smartphone. There are many apps that let you purchase popular coins like CashApp, Robinhood, or Coinbase. These are just some of the quickest ways someone could start investing their money in cryptocurrency. It’s so accessible that we offer youth-focused workshops on cryptocurrency as part of our monthly Money Talks Youth Forum. Those forums include topics ranging from Bitcoin to microtransactions, and to affording college and student loans. Registration is open to people between the ages of 18 and 21.
Q: Another word we hear often in association with Cryptocurrency is “blockchain.” Can you explain what this is and how someone new to cryptocurrency would navigate it?
A: The blockchain is just a way data is stored and essentially linked together permanently which differs from other ways of storing data. I like to think of the blockchain as a string with a lot of knots, all are connected and each new knot represents the expansion of the blockchain. This new way of storing data can be seen as something that entices consumers even though they may not come into direct contact with the technical side of it as much.
Q: Along those same lines, the word “fork” comes up quite a bit in this crypto landscape. What is a “fork” and why/is it important?
A: Forks occur when the community of miners decides to take that coin or cryptocurrency in a new direction. Forks become important when the community decides to take that coin and diverge from its original purpose. This was evident in the hard fork from Bitcoin to Bitcoin Cash.
Q: At CRC, our mission is to create a fair and inclusive future where BIPOC and LMI people can propose. In what ways can we further financial equity through the use of cryptocurrency?
A: Opportunities often discussed are centered around increasing financial equity through cryptocurrency mostly focus on its decentralized nature and the conversation that community is in control of creating and expanding the blockchain. However, with its volatility and lack of regulation at this current moment, it becomes a bit of a risk when investing.
Q: Does cryptocurrency eliminate or increase financial disparities?
A: Cryptocurrency is in response to financial disparities and a certain level of distrust that people have felt with current economic institutions. Cryptocurrency could be shaped and produced in a way that decreased financial disparities but today’s popular cryptocurrencies are too volatile to guarantee that.
Q: How have LMI and BIPOC communities been affected by cryptocurrency?
A: Dealing with cryptocurrency is totally different than going into a bank or learning how to invest in a regulated market. Because of this there is a lot of conversation about LMI and BIPOC communities having access to this “money of the future.” Personally, I’ve had friends and family in my own community who have bought into that and have lost a lot of money because of how volatile and unpredictable cryptocurrency prices can surge and drop.
Q: What needs to be improved?
A: I think what needs to be improved is the level of accountability. With accounts at traditional banks and credit unions, your money is either NCUA or FDIC insured. There is nothing that will protect consumers if Bitcoin goes under. The idea that anyone can access cryptocurrency as long as they have internet is great but there’s also a huge disparity between those who have affordable, sustainable access to broadband, and those who do not are left out of the conversation.