BET founder Robert Johnson calls for $14 trillion of reparations for slavery

Robert Johnson, founder of the television network Black Entertainment Television (BET), became the first African American billionaire after he sold the company to Viacom in 2001. (Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post)

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, told CNBC on Monday the U.S. government should provide $14 trillion of reparations for slavery to help reduce racial inequality.

The wealth divide and police brutality against blacks are at the heart of protests that have erupted across the nation following last week’s killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis.

“Now is the time to go big” to keep America from dividing into two separate and unequal societies, Johnson said on “Squawk Box.”

“Wealth transfer is what’s needed,” he argued. “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.”

Calling reparations the “affirmative action program of all time,” Johnson said they would send the signal that white Americans acknowledge “damages that are owed” for the unequal playing field created by slavery and the decades since with a “wealth transfer to white Americans away from African Americans.”

“Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights,” he said. “If this money goes into pockets like the [coronavirus] stimulus checks … that money is going to return back to the economy” in the form of consumption. There will also be more black-owned businesses, he added.

Johnson said the need for reparations has been on his website since last year. “I’m not new to this challenge.” He said he’s not advocating “more bureaucratic programs that don’t deliver and don’t perform.” He stressed, “I’m talking about cash. We are a society based on wealth. That’s the foundation of capitalism.”

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