As Rioting Rocks US, BET Founder Pushes for Staggering Amount Paid in Reparations


In a country deluged with images of looters stealing untold millions of goods from law-abiding store owners, “wealth transfer” is probably not what Americans want to talk about.

But that didn’t stop Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and one of the wealthiest African-Americans in the country, from taking to CNBC on Monday to propose the government pay a breathtaking $14 trillion in reparations to the “descendants of slaves” — more than 150 years after the institution of slavery was abolished.

And Johnson made clear he wasn’t referring to some new, namby-pamby feel-good liberal program. He means hard money — the kind that taxpayers earn every day.

“I’m talking about cash,” Johnson told the program “Squawk Box,” according to CNBC. “We are a society based on wealth. That’s the foundation of capitalism.”

Actually, as an astonishingly successful entrepreneur himself, Johnson should know full well that the foundation of capitalism is creation, not cash.

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It takes brains to create an idea — say, like Black Entertainment Television. And it takes hard work and determination to bring that idea to a profitable fruition, as Johnson proved when Viacom purchased BET for $3 billion in 2001.

The sale made Johnson the first black billionaire in the United States, according to CNBC. His net worth is reportedly much lower now — about $550 million — but considerably more than the average American.

His own first-hand knowledge of the benefits of American capitalism hasn’t stopped Johnson from calling for reparations before (he told CNBC he’s advocated for it since at least year), but the current climate of crisis after the case of George Floyd, the black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes during an arrest, has provided a new spur.

“The questions being asked today, in light of the alleged inexplicable murder of George Floyd, are how do we bring unity to this nation and how do we provide justice on behalf of Mr. Floyd and his family,” Johnson wrote in an RLJ Companies statement published by PR Newswire.

Do you think a majority of Americans will ever support reparations for slavery?

Justice for Floyd will come through the court system, Johnson wrote. The man accused in his death, now-former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

But “unity to this nation” is a different matter, according to Johnson. And that’s going to take money — a lot of it. According to the financial website The Balance, $14 trillion is about two-thirds the current gross domestic product of the United States.

It would also require the consent of the American people — and judging by the opposition the idea of reparations has generated before (including among black conservatives), and the fact that Republican members of Congress, at least, can be counted on to stand against it, the chance of Johnson’s call being answered in the affirmative is pretty close to zero.

That hasn’t stopped it from generating a heated response on social media, of course. It’s safe to say the idea is not popular with the majority of the country:

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That last tweet, “I never owned any slaves, so don’t ask me to pay into it,” is no doubt where most sane Americans would stand on the subject.

Leave aside the question of who would be on the receiving end of reparations for slavery (would a man with Johnson’s net worth qualify?), and whether any human being is owed some sort of recompense of the sufferings of the ancestors. There’s no moral or practical argument to be made for charging living Americans for the sins of those who lived in the country before them.

When most Americans last heard from Johnson, he was criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden for the presumptive Democratic candidate’s statement that if a black person couldn’t decide whether to support Biden or Trump, “you ain’t black.”

“He should spend the rest of his campaign apologizing to every Black person he meets,”  Johnson said in a statement reported by Fox News on May 22.

That and his previously publicized praise for President Donald Trump might have made Johnson sound like one of the good guys in the current culture war leading up to November’s election. His “Squawk Box” statement about reparations had exactly the opposite effect.

And it’s the kind of statement that will reach middle Americans, who might not be Trump supporters but also aren’t sure they trust Democrats (the party of leftist lunatics like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, among others). And it will push those middle Americans more firmly into the president’s corner as the vote nears.

The fact that Johnson’s call is coming at the exact time Americans are watching on television as looting runs wild in the streets, giving a first-hand look at what the forcible transfer of wealth actually looks like, pretty much dooms it from the get-go.

It’s an idea that deserves to die — and die fast.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.