"I still think the message we are conveying is a very positive message," Williams told NBC News. "But I respect the comments we’ve received."
OneUnited Bank, the largest black-owned bank in the U.S., faced criticism this week after it released a Black History Month debit card featuring Harriet Tubman.
The card stirred talk on social media, as Tubman's pose on the card confused people who thought she was doing the "Black Panther" film's "Wakanda Forever" salute.
So Harriet was taking folks to Wakanda? https://t.co/Vl3Ec6iGoC— Kobe stan (@BrandonBG_) February 13, 2020
Make it make sense, y’all https://t.co/og8eJObUvv— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 13, 2020
“Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than Harriet Tubman hitting the Wakanda salute on debit cards.” https://t.co/ovOLNtSrlM— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) February 13, 2020
OneUnited Bank's President Teri Williams told The Washington Post in an interview that the bank, which was founded in the 1960s when many big banks still rejected black people from their institutions, had been considering putting Tubman on a debit card amid the debate of adding her to the $20 bill.
“The card is really an extension of our whole way in which we’ve been communicating to our community: Black money matters and social justice is intertwined with building economic wealth,” Williams told the Post.
The bank also explained on its Twitter that the gesture was meant to represent the sign for "love" in American sign language, not the "Wakanda" gesture.
Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of love - love that causes you to sacrifice everything, including your own life. The gesture is the sign language symbol for love. It's so important that we love ourselves.— OneUnited Bank (@oneunited) February 13, 2020
Criticism has continued on social media despite the explanations, but Williams said she stands by the design.