Amidst the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and new discussions surrounding Critical Race Theory, America’s first Black billionaire is reigniting the debate over reparations.
America’s first Black billionaire, Robert Johnson, is calling for $14 trillion in payments to the descendants of slaves, including himself. Despite the new Critical Race Theory talks and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Johnson believes America has not done enough to make up for its original sin of using enslaved Black people to build the country with free labor.
As the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Johnson believes that reparations would be a good first step towards healing the pain of slavery for the 40 million Black descendants of slaves.
He 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.
If Johnson’s plan were to become law, every descendant of a slave would receive $350,000 over a thirty-year period. Johnson believes that people should be paid $10,000 to $11,000 per year simply because they started at the bottom of American society.
In a recent interview with Vice, Johnson stated, “If you’re a successful Black business, the idea is you’ve had enough. That’s what’s happening to the reparation – 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,’ And then people can say, ‘Well, we really don’t need reparations because when you put all of these things together, it’s reparations.’”
Johnson wants the country to pass “one big bill” that would make slave reparations a reality and get America to “stand up and apologize” for the atrocities committed against Black people since before the country was founded. He made it clear that “you’re not asking people to pay out of their paychecks” to make slave reparations a reality.
Johnson believes that white America should take responsibility for their part in the harm caused by slavery and take action towards a solution. In his own words, “Reparations had two components: 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.”