BET Co-Founder Robert Johnson Wants Black Lives Matter To Form A Political Party

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Written by Ann Brown
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BET co-founder Robert Johnson urges Black Lives Matter to form an independent political party to harness the Black vote. Black Entertainment Television chairman and founder Robert Johnson listens to a question after a news conference, Aug. 12, 1999, in New York. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson is encouraging the Black Lives Matter movement to form an independent Black political party.

Johnson recently came out in favor of reparations for Native Black people.

In an open memo to Black Lives Matter, Johnson said, “I am writing to you with a suggestion that Black Lives Matter (BLM) consider establishing a formal independent political party. The party could be founded on the principle articulated by the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. That formative principle stated, ‘Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…just permanent interests.’”

He continued, “The effort to create an independent Black party, created specifically to address Black issues, is not a new idea among Black people.  There are many people, both Black and white who believe that independent parties can make a significant contribution to the current political system as to how this nation of 300 million diverse citizens can be governed in the best interest of all Americans.”

Johnson pointed out the influence Black Lives Matter already has. “Your cause has triggered a determined reaction calling for change, heard not only in America but around the world,” he noted.

The founder and chairman of investment firm RLJ Cos., Johnson also suggested that a Black Lives Matter party would rejuvenate the youth and encourage change.

“The purpose of this memo is to encourage you to harness these forces and think about what you have ignited and how it can and should, through the political process, cause America to truly live up to its belief in American exceptionalism and its promise of the American Dream for all,” he concluded.

Black voters should use their power beyond merely voting, according to Johnson — especially in light of the highly-publicized gaffe made by Joe Biden during an interview on The Breakfast Club. Biden said “you ain’t Black” if you vote for Trump instead of him. The former VP later apologized for the remark but Johnson said showed a lack of respect for Black voters.

Johnson became the first Black billionaire in the U.S. when he sold BET to Viacom in 2001.

“That someone could be so presumptuousness, that you have to vote for a Democrat or otherwise you’re not identified as Black — that is the principal reason why we need a Black party, independent, to change that kind of behavior,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

Previously, Johnson said he thought the upcoming election was Trump’s to lose.

“I’ve been convinced for a long time that 40 million African Americans who tend to vote as a bloc in one of the two parties limit their leverage in getting action form both parties,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson, 74, has been a large Democratic donor over the years, he has praised Trump’s work on the U.S. economy. In 2016, he said that he turned down a position in Trump’s Cabinet because he said he couldn’t deal with government red tape

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While Johnson encourages Black Lives Matter to enter politics, GOP lawmakers have launched new attacks on BLM protesters. Republican Congressman Rep. Jim Hagedorn from Minnesota said in a Facebook post that those aligned with Black Lives Matter in protest of police brutality are “at war” with “western culture” — language that advocacy groups claim has long been used to promote white nationalism, The Washington Post reported.

Hagedorn made the comment in response to a news article about the activist Shaun King who urged statutes that depict Jesus as white should be torn down.