OneUnited Bank just released a limited edition Visa debit card, featuring the important historical figure, Harriet Tubman.
The inclusion itself is a thoughtful gesture, but when people started pointing out that Tubman looks like she's doing the "Wakanda Forever!" salute from Marvel's Black Panther, things got awkward.
OneUnited Bank tweeted the release of the new Harriet Tubman card on February 13, stating the card is meant as a symbol of Black empowerment. On the face of the card is an artistic rendition of Tubman with her arms crossed over her chest.
But because of the positioning of her arms—and more importantly her hands—people immediately started joking about her involvement in Wakanda.
Our limited-edition Harriet Tubman Visa Debit Card is a symbol of Black empowerment. Don’t miss out! #GetTheCard to… https://t.co/fQIHHyy6Gn— OneUnited Bank (@OneUnited Bank)1581613022.0
People were quick with their responses, some sharing their intentions for the card.
Gonna get this just so I can drop it on the table while splitting the bill, and then look everyone in the eye while… https://t.co/aG1S21kmzg— Tim Barnes (@Tim Barnes)1581632709.0
When I pull my Harriet Tubman VISA out my wallet at a racist location https://t.co/14m8NhnPi3— Al-Shabazz (@Al-Shabazz)1581632910.0
Others were convinced this had to be a mashup of Harriet Tubman and Black Panther somehow.
DO YOU THINK HARRIET TUBMAN WAS WALKING AROUND SALUTING WAKANDA WHILE SHE WAS TAKING SLAVES???? TO FREEDOM? https://t.co/1yhWavQy0m— marv (@marv)1581631934.0
Ive always said that if there's anything on this Earth that I've always wanted on my debit card it woul be Harriet… https://t.co/skLEvCOq4g— y'all some bammas (@y'all some bammas)1581630110.0
As the tweets continued to pour in, OneUnited Bank tried to explain the message they were going for, which had nothing to do with Marvel Studios.
Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of love - love that causes you to sacrifice everything, including your own li… https://t.co/KQz2xOo1RX— OneUnited Bank (@OneUnited Bank)1581633827.0
The comments and jokes continued to pour in, however, focusing on the ways in which the artistic rendition didn't actually mirror the sign language symbol for "love."
@oneunited who approved this? I appreciate the notion however.......... https://t.co/e9y3cnMoiA— Goldie 📸 (@Goldie 📸)1581626347.0
@goal_digger_ Hi @goal_digger_, the gesture being used is sign language for "Love" the card image is from the paint… https://t.co/3fSeRYPbvo— OneUnited Bank (@OneUnited Bank)1581633445.0
Some were upset by the misuse of the "love" symbol, if that was actually what OneUnited Bank intended the card to communicate.
They explained patiently what the proper arm and hand positioning should be, and some went so far as to suggest a reprint before officially offering the card to the public.
@oneunited @goal_digger_ Then her palms should be facing totally inward towards her body. Quick google search could’ve shown you that.— t (@t)1581639591.0
@oneunited @goal_digger_ As someone who knows ASL, I can promise you that’s *not* how “love” is signed. Arm positioning is wrong.— 𝙰𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊 (@𝙰𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊)1581658651.0
@oneunited @goal_digger_ Will you be editing/fixing the design having been corrected on the correct sign? As well a… https://t.co/x2y8bQ93B2— erykah badussy scented (@erykah badussy scented)1581642786.0
@oneunited @goal_digger_ Y’all better take that back to the printer— Rene 👀🥛🥐🐰⁷ (@Rene 👀🥛🥐🐰⁷)1581646462.0
Others focused instead on cultural appropriation, for those represented by Harriet Tubman, those indirectly represented by Wakanda, and those of the deaf community who would not recognize the "love" sign in its current presentation.
@oneunited @goal_digger_ I mean...good intentions but ya missed the mark on both cultures. And let's add culturally… https://t.co/RkKZTnhhyo— Nicole (@Nicole)1581698831.0
@oneunited @goal_digger_ Coulda just made the card w her on it not throwing up signs lmao— face (@face)1581646088.0
@oneunited Please stop 🤦🏽♀️ https://t.co/RHIa1YNUGJ— ochanya michelle (@ochanya michelle)1581653316.0
OneUnited Bank probably had their heart in the right place.
They selected a hugely important political and historical figure for their limited edition card run. They also wanted to include an important message that all who used or received the card would have the opportunity to see.
Whether they decide to amend the artwork before doing a full print run remains to be seen, but between the discussions of cultural appropriation and the unending supply of Wakanda jokes, the controversy is surely far from over.