BET Founder Robert Johnson To Corporate America: Voting Rights Are Nothing If Black America Doesn’t Have Access To Capital

BET Founder Robert Johnson To Corporate America: Voting Rights Are Nothing If Black America Doesn’t Have Access To Capital

Robert Johnson

BET founder Robert Johnson To Corporate America: Voting Rights Are Nothing If Black America Doesn’t Have Access To Capital. Photo: BET chairman and founder Robert Johnson attends a news conference, Aug. 12, 1999, in New York. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

BET founder Robert Johnson wants CEOs in corporate America to give as much support to helping Black Americans gain access to capital as they have to protecting ballot access.

Access to capital for Black Americans is more urgent than voting rights, according to Johnson.

“Voting rights without access to capital to build wealth is, in my opinion, an empty cup,” Johnson said recently during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “If you believe that voting rights is a primary need of the Black community, I would argue that access to capital is equal to or more so.”

He continued, “If you believe that voting rights is a primary need of the Black community, I would argue that access to capital is equal to or more so. Voting rights without access to capital to build wealth is, in my opinion, an empty cup.”

Johnson’s comments came after the media mogul went public with a proposal that would give preferential tax treatment to capital gains on investments made in minority-owned businesses. 

The founder and chairman of investment firm RLJ Companies has been outspoken about the role corporate America can play in addressing racial inequality in the U.S., particularly around changing hiring practices.

While saying he does support the protection of voting rights for Black Americans, Johnson said it’s also key to ensure it can lead to policies being enacted that meaningfully improve economic opportunity.

“It’s a glass half empty if you’re saying, ‘I’m going to give you the right to vote, but that vote doesn’t translate into you being able to build wealth for your family; send your kids off to college; provide retirement savings for you; to become a part of the economic system in the country as you deserve, giving you equal opportunity,'” Johnson said.

Various companies announced commitments to address racial inequality in the U.S. last year following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup committed capital to initiatives focused on reducing financial inequality, CNBC reported.

Johnson’s proposed $30 billion tax incentive for those who invest in Black businesses will revolutionize access to capital, he said.

Johnson wants the Better Opportunity and Outcomes for Socially Disadvantaged Talent (BOOST) Act, which was created in the 1970s to increase minority ownership of media properties, to be enacted by Congress, Black Enterprise reported.

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“The biggest challenge to racial equality in our nation is the glaring wealth chasm between Black and white American families,” said Johnson in a press release. “To close that gap, there must be a commitment to finding a workable solution to the lack of capital in the Black community. The BOOST Act, if enacted by Congress through tax legislation and embraced by investors, would elevate Black and minority businesses into the wealth-building and wealth-accumulation economic system that is the principal driver of economic opportunity and achievement in our capitalistic economy.”