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Between Sam Bankman-Fried and Ray Hushpuppi

In 2022, the breaking news was that Sam Bankman-Fried, the FTX founder, was arrested in the Bahamas. You have probably read, watched, and heard a lot of analysis on how it all went down with FTX, but this is not another crypto analysis article on the what ifs and how not or whatever. This is me thinking out loud (ranting) about how the big Western media machine has done everything to launder his story as some genius who made one silly mistake instead of calling it outright fraud and well well-planned and calculated scam. As a Nigerian who is never given the benefit of the doubt by "outsiders" and has few opportunities to fail repeatedly forward, I want to scream. 

I am screaming because Sam Bankman-Fried still got the opportunity to speak at The New York Times’s DealBook conference last month and had a chance to defend himself by saying, “Look, I screwed up,”  and “I didn’t know exactly what was going on." Despite everything that was happening, the organizers still offered him a massive platform "to be heard." If that was someone else, and I mean a black person or a poor person, the whole corporate world in their power would be up in arms about ethics, but yeah....they still gave him the platform to talk. 

The dude ran a well-thought-out Ponzi scheme "allegedly," but suddenly people want to analyze before they call him out, and because of his family background, he does not fit the scammer's profile for many of these double-standard analysts. Did anyone defend Hushpuppi's parents? Why did it have to take so long for him to be labeled an outright scammer or a fraudster? 

The stark difference in how "Global South" vs. "Global North" or "White" vs. "Black" scammers are portrayed is revealed by the way the news media exposes the bias we are not ready to fully admit. The verbs, the expressions, and the energy in how stories are portrayed are proof of a world divided by racial and economic lines. Why should there be exceptions when telling stories of the dangerous ways people set out to rip off the innocent? Why the double standard? 

Why did he have to start that business in the Bahamas? Why not somewhere else? Why wasn't this obvious? Would people have invested this heavily if he was black? or if the business was somewhere in Africa? 

Someone would argue that Ray Hushpuppi's case was different because poverty may have been the driving force, and his reason to be greedy, but what of Sam Bankman-Fried? How is it so easy for anyone to justify him not having any reason to be greedy? Why does he have to get a pass? And interestingly, why does it not rub off on other Americans? Even when the story with all the details is out there, people still want to defend him as badly as some silly kid and say, "Oh, it's not that deep."  I remember when Obi Invictus's story broke, and he became instantly ostracized despite making Forbes Magazine's cover like Sam Bankman-Fried, and Elizabeth Holmes because Nigerians knew what that meant.

As a Nigerian, who is going to cut me those slacks? With my green passport, I am instantly judged and constantly have to defend myself, and sometimes I am battling imposter syndrome because of the constant battle to find my place with people who do not think I will ever be good enough. All some people know about Nigeria is "Nigerian Prince," as though every Nigerian is a scammer or a potential scammer, but they cannot take the same joke if we decide to return the energy.

There is Anna Sorokin AKA Anna Delvey, the con artist and fraudster who has a whole Netflix series to her credit, and there is also Elizabeth Holmes. She even had a recent interview where she showed no remorse, as though she knew, she would get her life back. Some of these Western fraudsters even end up with book deals, connections, and platforms that translate to income for the rest of their lives. There are so many like them who get off easily because of their skin color, and socioeconomic status, with investors constantly willing to take a chance on them with no questions asked, but for the rest of us, we have to always work twice as hard to prove we are not fraudulent. 

There are already so many valid start-ups scrambling for investors, but they are not exactly the type of "founders" these "investors" want because they don't look the part. This setup opens even bigger doors for more scammers to show up like Elizabeth Holmes, Sam Bankman-Fried, Anna Sorokin, and their mentees because they know that by showing up like these "prototype founders,"  they can receive the billions no matter the level of incompetence, lack of experience.....they will get the pass.

Aside from the show-offs on Instagram and his cycle, how many platforms was Hushpuppi invited to speak on? Even people connected to him were careful to cover their tracks and quickly disconnected from him when he was caught, but look at how many people Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried were connected to alone? Sam had the money to launder his image and sustain his lifestyle while putting on the crypto front. The celebrities, brands, and organizations gave them a pass without scrutiny, but suddenly they are all quiet about their part in pulling off their multi-dimensional scam. 

Well, as one of my lecturers during a class in Sweden once said, "Scams in poorer countries are few, obvious, and loud, but scams in rich Western countries are more sophisticated and quiet" (paraphrased).  I guess that's all there is to say.

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