Black Entertainment Television co-founder Robert Johnson told CNBC Monday the U.S. government should provide $14 trillion of reparations for slavery to help reduce racial inequality.
According to CNBC, Johnson believes the wealth divide and police brutality against blacks are at the heart of protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
“Now is the time to go big” to keep America from dividing into two separate and unequal societies, Johnson said on “Squawk Box.
“Wealth transfer is what’s needed,” Johnson added. “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.”
Johnson, 74, became the first black billionaire in 2001 when he sold BET to Viacom. Soon after, he started the investment firm, The RLJ Cos. Johnson called reparations the “affirmative action program of all time,” saying it would signal that white Americans acknowledge “damages that are owed” for the unequal playing field created by slavery.
“Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights,” Johnson said. “If this money goes into pockets like the [coronavirus] stimulus checks … that money is going to return back to the economy.”
Later on the show, Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier, who is black, expressed doubts about whether reparations would be possible.
“I don’t believe we’ll be able to get anything like that through our political system.” However, Frazier did say, “Leaders in the business community have to be a unifying force. They can be a source of opportunity. They can be a source of understanding.”
“We as business leaders can step up and solve many of these economic problems for people,” Frazier added, saying that education, particularly financial literacy, is the “great equalizer.”