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BET billionaire Robert Johnson calls for $14T in reparations — and wants a check too

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America’s first black billionaire, Robert Johnson, is pushing hard for the government to pay $14 trillion in reparations — and he wants his check just like everyone else.

“Reparations would require the entire country to … admit that the result of slavery has been 200 years of systemic racism,” the Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder told Vice.

“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,” Johnson told the outlet.

Johnson, who owns several homes and heads an asset management firm, insists that means money for himself and other rich and famous black Americans, naming Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.

In fact, he suggests they are more deserving, because they have a proven track record in putting their money to work — saying that reparations should be an investment program rather than charity.

People march past the Minnesota State Capitol during the Reparations Juneteenth Celebration.
Activists march in Minnesota during Juneteenth calling for reparations to be paid to black Americans.
REUTERS

“If you’re a successful black business, the idea is you’ve had enough,” Johnson, said of those who dismiss the payouts.

But “no one ever asks if [a white-owned business] is too rich to benefit from investing in a football stadium” or receiving other benefits like preferential tax treatment or liquidity injections from the Federal Reserve, he told Vice.

Johnson — who is pushing to get his proposal in front of legislators — believes that recent programs like critical race theory in schools and debt relief for black farmers are being used to deflect from the “wealth transfer” he has said he is seeking.

Robert L. Johnson, BET Founder and Chairman, at BET's 25th Anniversary.
“Reparations had two components: The first was atonement, and the other was monetary,” Robert Johnson pointed out.
WireImage for BET Network

“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,’” Johnson tells VICE News.

“And then people can say, ‘Well, we really don’t need reparations because when you put all of these things together, it’s reparations,’” he said.

“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,” he added of the current approach he dismissed as “placebo paternalism.”

A mural reading "Black Lives Matter" painted on a bike path.
Robert Johnson argues that pushes to end systemic racism and police brutality are being used to deflect from the “wealth transfer.”
AFP via Getty Images

“Reparations had two components: The first was atonement, and the other was monetary,” he told Vice.

“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.”

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