Robert “Bob” Johnson may have been the first Black American to become a billionaire, but he doesn’t want to be an anomaly. The co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) has thrown the full weight of his voice behind demanding reparations for his people. And he’s doing it to the tune of $14 trillion dollars.
“I’m calling for reparations and asking for two things. First, that white Americans recognize that reparations is a payment to atone for the largest illegal wealth transfer in this nation’s history; and second, to understand that the phrases equal justice and economic equality will ring hollow to Black Americans until they are made whole,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed on NBC’s Think platform.
Johnson initially made the demands in a statement via a press release issued by his company The RLJ Companies. The release opened by asking:
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“Is $14 trillion too much to ask for the atonement of 200 plus years of brutal slavery, de facto and de jure government-sponsored social and economic discrimination and the permanent emotional trauma inflicted upon black Americans by being forced to believe in a hypocritical and unfulfilled pledge that ‘all men are created equal?”
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Now on a tour promoting his proposal, Johnson continued his campaign on popular morning radio show “The Breakfast Club.” When asked by Charlamagne Tha God to tell everyone why reparations were necessary, Johnson replied there were two overarching reasons.
“The first and foremost is, when you are damaged by society for which you have no control over and which has denied you the fundamental human rights, economic rights, social rights that they proposed to deliver to everybody, you ask yourself, “Why have I not received those rights over the 200-plus years of this nation?” Johnson said. “So it’s an atonement component to it, basically making you whole for what they promised you, but was never delivered.”
“The second part of it is that African Americans transferred a huge amount of wealth to white Americans which, Charlamagne, explains why white Americans have 10 times the net worth, in terms of median income, of Black Americans. It’s because we were denied the wealth that we were promised,” Johnson added.
To underscore his point, Johnson highlighted the fact that Germany paid reparations to Jewish people for the Holocaust, saying Black Americans are owed reparations just as much as Jewish people were.
He added that white people have a hard time taking accountability for the sins of their ancestors which resulted in centuries of historic systemic racism, discrimination, oppression and denial of equal rights.
“If white Americans could have embraced apology the way Black Americans embraced forgiveness, this country would be far better off,” Johnson said. “We are forgiving people. White America should match us in forgiveness and match us in reimbursement for damages that they caused to us, for which we had no part in for over 200 years.”
He proposed “direct cash payments, over the next 10 to 20 years, to every descendent of African American slaves,” saying Black people need money over social service programs.
“Don’t give us programs, don’t give us welfare, don’t give us food stamps, give us the money. We will invest it, manage it and grow our people and our communities ourselves,” Johnson said.