Robert Johnson, America’s first Black billionaire and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), is a firm supporter of reparations. He believes that despite new talks about instituting Critical Race Theory and the rise in popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement, America still needs to do more to atone for its original sin of using enslaved Black people to build the country with free labor.
Johnson has proposed a taxpayer-funded reparations payment system that would distribute wealth to the descendants of slaves who have been forced to struggle through America as second-class citizens for decades despite being technically freed from slavery back in the mid-1800s. He believes that reparations would be a good first step to help heal the pain of slavery for 40 million Black descendants of slaves.
If Johnson’s plan were to pass into law, every descendant of a slave would receive $350,000 over a thirty-year period. People would be paid $10,000 to $11,000 per year simply because they started at the bottom of American society. Johnson made it clear that “you’re not asking people to pay out of their paychecks” to make slave reparations a reality.
Johnson wants the country to come together to help heal the pain of slavery for millions of slave descendants. He wants to see lawmakers pass “one big bill” that would once and for all get America to “stand up and apologize” for the atrocities committed against Black people since before the country was founded.
“A massive wealth gap exists between Black and white Americans. The gap can be traced back to the slave trade, which stripped Blacks of everything of value and forced them to endure a life of enslavement,” said Johnson.
He believes that no one would ever say that a white man who was rich had had enough, and that reparations have 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,” and then people can say, “Well, we really don’t need reparations because when you put all of these things together, it’s reparations.”
Reparations had two components, according to Johnson: The first was atonement, and the other was monetary. 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.
Johnson firmly believes that the country needs to apologize for the atrocities committed against Black people before the country was founded. He wants white America to acknowledge and accept the wrongs that have been done and to say, “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.”
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