BET founder Robert Johnson has called for the US to pay $14 trillion in slavery reparations to bring 40 million African-Americans in line with the wealth of white Americans, as he says the nation ‘has never come to grips with its original sin of slavery’.
Johnson, who was the first black American billionaire, told Fox News that his proposal for reparations to be paid to US descendants of slaves would be ‘a huge emotional assuaging of guilt for black and white Americans’.
The move would tackle the vast wealth gap between black and white Americans that can be traced right back to the slave trade, make African-Americans financially equal in society and help repair some of the damage caused by generations of inequality, he said.
‘You want a big idea: white America, what would happen if you said, “please forgive us and accept our apology. And by the way, we think we owe you what was taken from you for over 300 years of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and denial of economic opportunity and rights,”‘ Johnson said.
‘I think that would be a huge emotional assuaging of guilt for black and white Americans and this country could stand up proudly on July 4 and say we are truly an exceptional nation and now we’re living up to the principles on which we were founded which for many years were denied to our fellow citizens.’
BET founder Robert Johnson has called for the US to pay $14 trillion in slavery reparations to bring 40 million African-Americans in line with the wealth of white Americans, as he says the nation ‘has never come to grips with its original sin of slavery’
Johnson said the nation’s wealth and the inequality between white and black people can be traced back to slavery.
‘America from its inception has been plagued by the evils of slavery… Economically, socially, educationally – all of these things are because America has never come to grips with its original sin of slavery, which has been responsible for most of the disharmony between blacks and whites in this country,’ he said.
He added: ‘What happens when you have wealth, you do the things that white Americans have done from the time they first arrived here. African-Americans were denied that opportunity.’
Johnson’s proposal involves giving 40 million African-Americans who are descendants of slaves direct cash payments of around $10,000 to $11,000 per year over a 30-year period.
In total this would add up to $350,000 per person.
The businessman said the plan is ‘simple math’ with the $350,000 being the average personal net worth of a white American family, taking into account factors including home ownership and income.
This figure currently dwarfs the average personal net worth of an African-American family in America, which is around ten times lower at $30,000, he explained.
Johnson speaks during an executive order signing in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC. Johnson, who was the first black American billionaire, said his proposal for reparations to be paid to US descendants of slaves would be ‘a huge emotional assuaging of guilt for black and white Americans’
‘African-Americans are way behind white Americans in homeownership… African-Americans fall behind white Americans significantly in income, savings, investments in stocks and bonds, money to put your kids in school,’ Johnson said.
‘When you take all these factors, you come up with the fact that the disparity of wealth is something that you need to close. So in order to close that – to bring 40 million African-Americans, up to $350,000 of wealth. Well, you multiply that number – $350,000 – times 40 million African-American descendants of slaves. You come out with $14 trillion.’
‘In order to make everything equal, you have to bring African-Americans equal to white Americans,’ he said, adding there are only two options to tackling this wealth disparity – stopping white people from getting richer or making black people wealthier.
He said the first option will not happen so ‘you got to make black people wealthier’.
Under the plan, the money would be paid out to any African-American who is a direct descendant of slaves in a similar way to how Social Security checks are sent out.
Johnson said the plan would ‘use the slave era definition of black’ to determine who is eligible for the payments, meaning ‘if you had one drop of blood in you that was black you were determined to be black’.
Protesters rally during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Boston this week
A protester writes ‘reparations’ on the sidewalk in New York City during a Black Lives Matter protest near One Police Plaza this week
The money would come from taxes because it is the ‘responsibility of the nation’ and all wealth circulating in the US today can be traced back to the slave trade.
‘Reparations is a debt owed by the nation as a whole because all of the wealth that was taken from slaves. Free labor is a transfer of wealth,’ he explained.
‘That wealth of slavery found its way throughout the creation of wealth in the United States. I’ve often said that slaves may have died but the money that they created did not die. Money doesn’t die. Money not only circulates; money multiplies.
He added: ‘If you gave me a group of the brightest forensic accountants, I would be willing to bet you that I could trace every dollar of wealth in the United States today back to slavery.’
The taxes would work out at just about $8 a day on average for each American and it would be a progressive tax so that lower-income Americans of all races pay less than wealthier Americans.
Johnson’s suggestion comes after Washington Democratic Senator Cory Booker put forward a bill last June to explore reparation proposals for African-Americans saying ‘we have a historic opportunity to break the silence, to speak of the ugly past, and talk constructively on how we will move this nation forward’.
The House version of the bill was sponsored by Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee who also said ‘slavery is the original sin’.
But the idea of reparations appears to have fallen along party lines with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, dismissing the Democrats’ plans the day before the committee hearing.
All Black Lives Matter is painted on the Hollywood Boulevard in LA. Johnson’s proposal involves giving 40 million African-Americans who are slave descendants yearly payments of around $10,000 over 30 years
Two young protesters in Baltimore. Johnson said the reparations would make black people financially equal and help repair some of the damage caused by generations of inequality
‘I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,’ McConnell said.
Even the Democrats’ proposals do not go far enough, Johnson told Fox News, saying there is ‘no need to study reparations or slavery’.
‘To me, this is rearranging the deck chairs on a racial titanic. It’s not going any place,’ he said.
Johnson also went on to cast doubt on the party ever voting in the reparations.
‘What they will do is what they have always done, which is paternalistic programs managed by bureaucrats to give support – somewhat means-tested support – in the black community. And call it a day,’ he said.
Johnson warned that if reparations aren’t paid, widespread inequality and racial tensions will continue to ravage America.
‘If America can atone for that in the form of cash payments to African-Americans to make them economically equal to white Americans, two things will happen,’ he said.
‘One, African-Americans will be, in effect, financially equal in a capitalist society and given the opportunity to grow wealth for themselves and their families. And two… unless you can atone, forgive and then repair in the form of the $14 trillion of cash, which the way I’ve developed it would make 40 million African-Americans equal in wealth to white Americans, we will live with this problem for generations to come.’
He urged white Americans to say to themselves ‘we want to atone’ and they will find ‘there are no more forgiving people on the face of the Earth than African-American people’.
Johnson’s proposal comes after he slammed protesters pulling down Confederate and racist statues ‘borderline anarchists’ and said ‘black people laugh at white people’ doing it in an interview with Fox earlier this week.
Johnson said tearing down statues across America and calling for TV shows to be canceled achieves nothing in the fight for racial equality but are actions simply being done by white people to ‘assuage their guilt’.
‘What white people are doing with the idea that they’re making us feel good is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on a racial Titanic,’ he told Fox News Wednesday. ‘It absolutely means nothing.’
He urged white people instead to ‘ask us what we think first’ rather than assume to know what black people want.
Johnson has also called for Black Lives Matter to form its own political party.
Protests are continuing across America demanding an end to systemic racism in the wake of the Memorial Day ‘murder’ of black man George Floyd at the hands of a white cop.