Al Sharpton and Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) slammed businesses that have decided not to accept cash, calling the move “un-American” and invoking racism in their criticism.
Sharpton contended that the new, tech-savvy forms of payment used by some U.S. businesses are “discriminating” to certain low income and low educated “households of color” during MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” program Sunday. Payne, who joined the left-wing civil rights activist, has introduced legislation that would protect “currency as a form of payment for goods and services” in the U.S.
“Recently, you might have gone into a store or a restaurant and seen a familiar sign that reads ‘No cash accepted.’ Since the start of the pandemic, more and more businesses have decided to go cashless, taking only debit, credit, or phone apps as a form of payment,” Sharpton began.
“But whether it is for sanitary reasons or tech-savvy ones, the physical elimination of legal currency for consumer transactions is discriminating against an array of marginalized groups,” he continued as he introduced the New Jersey Democrat.
Payne described his Payment Choice Act, which, according to his website, “would make it illegal for retail businesses to reject cash for in-person, consumer transactions at stores across the country.”
“Right now, there are about 55 million unbanked or underbanked people in this country. And this figure is sure to have increased after the financial insecurity, you know, caused by the — the Americans during the pandemic with the Covid-19. There are Americans who must use cash to pay for their daily necessities,” he continued before predictably bringing race into the debate. “And African-Americans as other minorities, as well as the elderly and disabled use cash the most. So we cannot reject them and their needs because they don’t have a credit card or Apple Pay.”
Sharpton referred to a 2019 survey that found that the unbanked or underbanked were “lower income, less educated households of color, specifically Black and Hispanic.”
“So if a business goes cashless, it alienates not just the unbanked, but the communities of color, too,” Sharpton said. “What is the solution here?”
Payne insisted that passing his bill would help ensure that “communities of color do not suffer discrimination” in the U.S. economy but admitted that “there are different reasons people are unbanked or underbanked.”
“Now, it could be lack of income, or a lack of access, or a lack of trust in banks and other financial institutions. So whatever the reason Americans should have the freedom to pay in the way that is most convenient to them,” he contended.
Sharpton pressed to ask “how is this allowed” after noting that stores will turn away those who do not have a credit card or smartphone with an application that provides a way to pay without cash.
“This is America — the land of choice, the land of freedom — and you should be able to pay in the manner in which is most comfortable to you,” Payne said.
“You know, minorities, and elderly, and the disabled are far more likely to be unbanked and underbanked. Being underbanked or unbanked affects 25% of African-Americans and Latinos, and close to one out of every five disabled Americans is impacted by that, and one out of 10 elderly are impacted. So stores who reject cash are rejecting these Americans as customers as well,” Payne continued. “This is just unacceptable. We cannot deny any American food and medicine simply because they are unable to play electronically. It’s just un-American, period.”
Sharpton chimed in to note that sporting venues and other businesses went cashless last year due to the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns over the physical handling of money.
“Business owners also might think that being cashless means being more efficient when it comes to checking customers out. What they may not have taken into account was just how exclusionary going cashless is,” he added, asking Payne, “What would you like to say to those businesses?”
“I think they need to ask themselves whether they really want to deny goods and services to minority, elderly, and disabled customers,” he replied. “This bill is about making sure all Americans have access to products and services offered in our country. To not accept a dollar bill — legal tender — seems un-American to me.”
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