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The founder of Black Entertainment Television says the federal government should pay out $14 trillion to black Americans as reparations for slavery.
Robert Johnson, a billionaire, said Monday on CNBC that the wealth disparity in the U.S. and police brutality against blacks are the cause of violent protests across the country. To fix the problem, pay out trillions, Johnson said.
“Now is the time to go big,” he said. “Wealth transfer is what’s needed. 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 said reparations would be the “affirmative action program of all time,” delivering a message to white Americans that “damages … are owed” for slavery and the decades of racism that followed.
“Short answers to long horrific questions about the stain of slavery are not going to solve the inequality problem,” Johnson said. “We need to focus on wealth creation and wealth generation and to do that we must bring the descendants of slaves into equality with this nation, and that’s what I propose in this $14 trillion proposal to provide reparations not only for the sin, or the atonement of, the sin of slavery and Jim Crow-ism and desegregation — both de facto and du jour — but to cause America to live up to the concept and the notion that this nation was born on the idea of American exceptionalism.”
“Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights,” Johnson said. “If this money goes into pockets like the [coronavirus] stimulus checks … that money is going to return back to the economy,” which could lead to more black-owned businesses.
Johnson has been calling for reparations for years. “I’m not new to this challenge,” he said. But he said he does not support “more bureaucratic programs that don’t deliver and don’t perform.”
“I’m talking about cash. We are a society based on wealth. That’s the foundation of capitalism,” he said. “If we take that big leap, I am convinced that the problems that we confront today can be solved. But it takes a big, bold action, and $14 trillion in reparations for damages visited upon the heirs of slaves is an appropriate statement.”
In a later written statement, Johnson said: “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’?”