BET Founder and America’s first Black billionaire Robert L. Johnson spoke to Vice about why he’s calling on the U.S. government to provide $14 trillion in reparations to African Americans for slavery and to help reduce racial inequity.
Johnson, who heads an assets firm and was the first Black person to own a majority stake in an NBA team, addressed current actions like critical race theory education, The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, and corporations pledging $50 billion after George Floyd’s death. He called these things “placebo paternalism,” and reiterated why he thinks reparations should be given.
“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.’ 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. Reparations had two components: The first was atonement, and the other was monetary. 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. 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 is currently working on his proposal for legislators, and Johnson is also backing a $30 billion tax incentive program, the Better Opportunity and Outcomes for Socially Disadvantaged Talent (BOOST) Act. In a previous press release, Johnson stated that the act “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.”