America’s First Black Billionaire, BET Founder, Robert Johnson Demands Reparations for Slavery

Black Entertainment Television chairman and founder Robert Johnson listens to a guestion after a news conference Thursday, August 12, 1999, in New York. Johnson announced an initiative led by BET Holdings, with cooperation from the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund and a group of top media companies, in …
AP Photo/Diane Bondareff

The nation’s first black billionaire and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Robert L. Johnson, claims that the only way for the U.S. to get past its history with slavery is to pay reparations to black people.

Floating a whopping $14 trillion plan, Johnson insists that this is the only way to close the black-white wealth gap and heal the rift between the races.

Johnson recently noted that “reparations” plans are popping up all across the nation in smaller policy suggestions. Projects including the debt relief for black farmers, the housing program for blacks instituted by Evanston, Illinois, corporate set-asides, and other programs that have the central theme of making amends for past slights to black people are slowly proliferating across the country.

“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,'” Robert Johnson told VICE News on Tuesday.

“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,” the BET founder added.

Still, Johnson, who said four more years of Donald Trump in the White House would’ve been a good thing for America, is not celebrating these attempts to backdoor reparations. He calls them “placebo paternalism.”

Johnson claimed that the dual parts of reparations are not being satisfied by these piecemeal programs. The government itself — meaning the national government, not local municipalities or states — must make a grand apology and then dole out cash to make reparations legitimate.

“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 harm,” he said.

Johnson also insisted that cash payments to recipients should not be limited to only certain income levels. The super-rich, including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James, should also get paid. They know what to do with great wealth, he says, so their use of it would be considerably more advantageous to black Americans.

The billionaire went on to slam those who say that wealthy blacks or successful black owned businesses don’t deserve reparations.

“If you’re a successful black business, the idea is you’ve had enough,” Johnson said, adding, “no one ever asks if [a white-owned business] is too rich to benefit from investing in a football stadium” or receiving other government-sponsored benefits.

He then explained why he wants to see the budget exploding $14 trillion reparations plan he is championing.

“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,” he exclaimed.

The pain of hurting the economy to lay out his $14 trillion in payouts is part of the act of contrition, he says.

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