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America’s first Black billionaire wants reparations now, says it's time to address past wrongs

Johnson also said that slavery and discrimination were government-endorsed and enforced, and thus "everyone is to blame."

America’s first Black billionaire wants reparations now, says it's time to address past wrongs
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ - NOVEMBER 20: Robert Johnson (C), the founder of Black Entertainment Television at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Robert L. Johnson, America’s first Black billionaire, wants America to apologize for slavery and provide reparations to the tune of $14 trillion to counter the economic inequality caused by slavery and racism. Johnson wants his check now and says the African American community needs to be compensated for the harm inflicted on the African American community by the country. The 75-year-old media magnate says reparations cannot wait anymore. “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,” said Johnson, reported Vice News.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: BET founder Robert Johnson speaks during the 2018 Ronald McDonald House Gala at Grand Hyatt New York on May 14, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)


Johnson, the founder of BET, said there are 'new' kinds of reparations being carried out in different names so it's not divisive or controversial. The housing grant program in Evanston, Illinois, the $5 billion of targeted support and debt relief for Black farmers, and the $50 billion in corporate pledges in the wake of George Floyd’s murder dedicated to combating systemic racism and inequality have all been announced. He wants changes to address the current system but believes people will try to pass it off as reparations. “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,’” said Johnson. “And then people can say, ‘Well, we really don’t need reparations because when you put all of these things together, it’s reparations. Not to mention that of the 50 billion pledge by corporate companies, only 0.5% has actually materialized so far." 



Johnson had called for reparations last year as well after protests broke out across America against systemic racism and racial injustice. “Now is the time to go big” to address the wealth inequality and unequal societies, declared Johnson, reported CNBC. “Wealth transfer is what’s needed. 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,” he added. Johnson believes all living descendants in the United States of once enslaved African Americans deserve to be compensated. "There should be no restriction or limitation on who is entitled to reparations and how little or how much one has been harmed. The damages of slavery and discrimination were government-endorsed and government-enforced; therefore, if anyone is to blame, everyone is to blame," said Johnson, reported NBC News.

MONTGOMERY, AL - APRIL 26: Veric Lang, 19, visits the National Memorial For Peace And Justice on April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Bob Miller/Getty Images)


While there have always been discussions about reparations for slavery and racism, it gained a hold in mainstream media after The Atlantic published Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece titled “The Case for Reparations” in 2014. It has paved way for discussions on the topic, including a calculation of what is owed and how it should be distributed among the community. Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is leading a research project to quantify the economic harm caused by slavery and racism. He believes many institutions have a responsibility in addressing the harm caused by them. “The injury around racism occurred at federal, state, and local levels as well as other institutions — colleges, companies, churches — so each has a responsibility to address past wrongs,” said Perry. “We can’t wait for the federal government to issue reparations. In fact, for me, reparations won’t come from Washington, it’ll go to Washington.”



Johnson also countered a repeated argument that African Americans won't be able to manage their money well. "I reject that notion; put the money into the hands of African Americans and let them decide how they will manage their own financial future. Given money, African Americans would do the exact same thing that white Americans do: They would pay to send their kids to good schools, they would pay to buy nice homes, they would pay to maintain those houses and keep their neighborhoods stable," he said. 

MONTGOMERY, AL - APRIL 26: A sculpture commemorating the slave trade greets visitors at the entrance National Memorial For Peace And Justice on April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people and those terrorized by lynching and Jim Crow segregation in America. Conceived by the Equal Justice Initiative, the physical environment is intended to foster reflection on America's history of racial inequality. (Photo by Bob Miller/Getty Images)

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