Robert L. Johnson, BET — or Black Entertainment Television — founder and America's first black billionaire, says that it's high time for the country to atone with slavery reparations.
He also "wants it to come with an apology for slavery, Jim Crow, and hundreds of years of racism."
What are the details?
In a Vice article titled, "America's First Black Billionaire Wants His Reparations Check, Now," Johnson was quoted as saying that the government needs to pay $14 trillion in reparations to its black citizens.
"He doubts that check will ever come, but he sees a new kind of reparations — being called by a different name so as not to be 'divisive' or 'controversial' — happening already," Vice's Dion Rabouin wrote. "The new 'reparations' is critical race theory education, it's the housing grant program in Evanston, Illinois, it's the $5 billion of targeted support and debt relief for black farmers, and it's the $50 billion in corporate pledges in the wake of George Floyd's murder dedicated to combating systemic racism and inequality."
Johnson, who also heads an asset management firm and is the first ever black person to own a majority stake in an NBA team, said, "That's what's happening to the reparations — it's been cut up into small pieces of things that look and feel like, 'We want to end systemic racism, we want to end police brutality and shootings and to provide financing to black small business owners.' And then people can say, 'Well, we really don't need reparations because when you put all of these things together, it's reparations. It's just not one big bill or asking this country to stand up and apologize, and you're not asking people to pay out of their paychecks."
That very idea is the problem, Johnson said, and referred to the "compensation" as "placebo paternalism."
"Reparations had two components," he said. "The first was atonement, and the other was monetary. With no doubt whatsoever, it was supposed to come from the government representing the people of the country. It was reimbursement, or recompense if you will, for the farm."
Johnson, 75, added that the figurative glass ceiling for black Americans is if they have a "successful black business."
"[T]he idea is you've had enough," Johnson said. "[But] no one ever asks if [a white-owned business] is too rich to benefit from investing in a football stadium."
Rabouin noted that HR 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, has been "bolstered" by the 100th anniversary of Tulsa's race massacre and that black congressional leaders are pushing for a vote on the act.
"The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in April for the first time since it was introduced in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers," Rabouin wrote. "However, President Biden has reportedly expressed diminished expectations for congressional action."
If passed, HR 40, according to president of Color of Change Rashad Robinson, "will not actually provide reparations for anyone," but instead will help "move us on the road to be more truthful and in direct conversation about what happened," promoting a national education on how slavery, Jim Crow, and more impacted the country's development.
For his part, Johnson said that such "education" needs to be "dedicated to ensuring that reparations is an investment program rather than a charity program," and said that wealthy black Americans — including Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, and more — also ought to receive payment.
Rabouin added, "It just makes good business sense to put capital in the hands of those who have shown they know how to put it to work, he says, if a government program is to be a successful economic stimulus that repairs black communities."
According to the article, Johnson continues to push for a $14 trillion reparations proposal that he believes would provide enough money to close the wealth gap between white and black Americans.
"Reparations would require the entire country to … admit that the result of slavery has been 200 years of systemic racism and for that reason black folks have been denied $13-15 trillion of wealth and therefore we as a country now must atone by paying black people of all stripes — the rich ones, the poor ones, and the middle — out of our pocket," Johnson reasoned.
"[H]e wants his check," Rabouin concluded. "It's due."
Johnson appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Monday, where he insisted, "Now is the time to go big," and that reparations are "owed" to descendants of slaves.
“Wealth transfer is what's needed," he insisted. "Think about this: Since 200-plus years or so of slavery, labor taken with no compensation is a wealth transfer. Denial of access to education, which is a primary driver of accumulation of income and wealth, is a wealth transfer."
Johnson continued, "Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights. If this money goes into pockets like the [coronavirus] stimulus checks ... that money is going to return back to the economy [in the form of consumption]."