FinTech is an area of technical innovation and creation that primarily involves finance, the finance and banking industry, and the various tools within it. This area is a wonderland of innovation and evolution. Fintech developments brought us the e-wallet, PayPal, Mobile Banking Apps, and various other useful tools that help everyday people make better, more informed decisions about their financial lives.
But like all “Tech” creations, their origins and proposed uses advance from the minds and lives of its developer(s). And all creations, no matter how mixed-use they may be, were imagined by its creator for a certain purpose, stage, or situation in mind. The nature vs. nurture argument. When Mark Zuckerberg created his FaceMash website while at Harvard, it was created to rate women. However, its duel purpose allowed its users to rate men as well; its mixed use. He did not set out to create FaceMash to rate Men.
Mark Zuckerberg ALSO did not create FaceMash FOR HIM to rate Black Women either. In fact, he was pretty much a gameless dork that used it to live out how he wished he could be; from his personal perspective on life and possibly how unfair life, and women were towards him. Now, I’m not here to psychoanalyze him, but my point is, his life, personality, upbringing, and ideas for its use were all integral in his creations, and all dual uses were secondary to FaceMash and later Facebook’s intended use.
I am a Black FinTech developer. As the title indicates, I am Black first. No matter where I was raised, the level of wealth I may have grown up with or within, nor the quality of education I may have in relation to the majority of the population, being Black in the United States always comes with an asterisk or question as to why I may or may not be successful. ALL Black professionals face this discriminate treatment.
If I went to an all-Black highschool or college, I must have been the best in THAT school; the school already being deemed inferior because Black people are deemed to be inferior, so being the best of the worst isn’t really an accomplishment. Or If I went to an Ivy League University, was the only reason I attended was because they needed diversity? Were my scores lower than all of the average white students, BUT FOR that need? Did I take a more deserving white person’s position? None of those apply to me. However, in the US, that doesn’t matter, being a member of the 13% of the population that is not white, means the majority gets to set the narrative. It seems EVERY white person has the same made up story about an uncle who was told he wasn’t hired or he was fired because they needed a Black person to fill a quota. (they were usually brought to america as Irish Slaves too..because, you know, that was a thing!)
Being Black means that my FinTech developments have my upbringing and possible ancestral drive in mind. However, unlike many white developers, but like the vast majority of Black people in the US, my creations intuitively come with inclusion in mind. For example, my company’s FinTech App: Dapple Pay was created in major part because far too many Black people, for well over 100 years, have faced retail discrimination at the hands of white shop and business owners. Now, although laws have been passed outlawing this overt discrimination, various workarounds have been used or developed; the newest being the “cashless” phenomenon.
All discrimination is intentional. I repeat ALL discrimination is intentional. And all discrimination is initially denied; accompanied with a plausible “excuse” from those that commit it. “Cashless” discrimiation is no different. Now understand, not all discrimination has an evil intent behind its origins. However, upon realizing that it is discriminatory; unless the originator makes efforts to lesson or eliminate that discrimination, its continued use is set forth -- baked with that ‘known’ discrmination. It then becomes evil and purposeful.
“Cashless” retail discrimination is born from retailers; often white, but not always, using existing technological innovations - mobile phone NFC technology (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay) as its unindictable benign “excuse” to claims of deliberate discrimination against targeted demographics of shoppers (MOST often, people of colour and non-english Spanish speaking immigrants).
The “benignly” discriminated against people all have one thing in common: they do not and usually cannot get a bank account. A bank account is necessary to utilize the technology accepted by these “cashless only” retailers. These bankless people are almost universally poor and live in areas where poverty is systemic. Where ordinary services are rationed or purposefully withheld. The reason these people do not have banks is often tied to these places where they live; because banks refuse to be accessible to them. And it's not that these shoppers can’t purchase their desired items, its that the stores don’t even want them inside shopping, so they post signs saying: “We do not take Cash” or “Debit or Credit Cards ONLY.” In other words: “Whites Only,” or “Coloured in the back.”
Our platform: Dapple Pay aims to thwart this discrimination by developing a banking-”ish” platform that does not require a direct link to an existing “classic” bank. Users can then, if necessary, shop at these cashless retailers without the retailer using “Cashless Only” (often the only way these people can pay for goods or services) as its reason to discriminate; it will have to try something else. Our platform additionally serves to bring those who are without traditional banking services into an area of financial safety and security. In other words, those long fought battles for human dignity and respect that the Black protesters at Woolworths and various other “White’s Only” establishments that we grew up watching on vintage Black and White photos and films in school continues.
The first “Smartphone” came into use in 2007 when Apple introduced the original iPhone. Its creation, an offshoot of the Ipod, has killed and created many business types. From video rental and record stores, to landlines, hotels, and cab companies. The one industry the smartphone has not touched, rather in many ways, has been dispassionate about destroying, is discrimination. In fact, in many ways and for all of their compliments to everyday life, smartphone apps have deliberately missed the boat when being considered for overwhelming enhancements to american society.
I would love to be able to create something that has no specific social raison d’etre; something that isn’t used to ease suffering of a negatively targeted group of people. But being a BLACK FinTech developer; as the title indicates, I am Black first, and I got have that luxury.
Malik Leigh, Esq.