BET Founder Robert Johnson: $14 Trillion In Reparations Is An Investment In 40 Million African-Americans | Video | RealClearPolitics

BET Founder Robert Johnson: $14 Trillion In Reparations Is An Investment In 40 Million African-Americans

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BET founder Bob Johnson explains what $14 trillion in reparations would look like in an interview with FOX News' Bret Baier on Monday.

"Unless we move aggressively to solve that problem, just as the Detroit riots happened in 1968, this riot will be the foundation of future riots, unless we solve that problem," Johnson said.

"Instead of looking at it as a payment, look at it as an investment in 40 million African-Americans, who deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity," he explained.


Full transcript, via FOX News:

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  There are people with ideas how the country can come together during a time of strife.
 
Entrepreneur Bob Johnson has a proposal to address one major area of contention.
 
He joins us tonight.
 
Bob, thanks for being here.
 
I want to first get your overall feelings, after days of these protests and what we have seen on the streets, the riots, really protests turned into riots and looting. Your thoughts on all of this, 30,000-foot?
 
ROBERT JOHNSON, FOUNDER, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION:  Well, Bret, thanks for having me on the show tonight.
 
I have been around long enough to have witnessed the Detroit riots. And those riots were far more dangerous, in terms of both people, police and bystanders, than the riots and protests you see here.
 
I think we have to look at this in a total context. And part of that context is, people have a right to protest when they see injustice. That goes all the way back to Dr. Martin Luther King's civil rights marches.
 
On the other hand, we have to go to the root cause of people protesting that leads to violence, whether it is agitated violence or just violence because people feel frustrated and bitter.
 
And one of the issues -- and, again, referring to back in Detroit and the Kerner Commission report -- the Kerner Commission report said -- and I quote -- this country is moving towards -- between black and white to two nations separate and unequal.
 
So, to me, the fundamental cause is the economic inequality that African-Americans as a whole face in this nation. And unless we move aggressively to solve that problem, just as the Detroit riots happened in 1968, this riot will be the foundation of future riots, unless we solve that problem.
 
And that, to me, is where I think you have to come in at.
 
BAIER:  Bob, we are looking live in the Rose Garden there setting up for the president and his remarks tonight.
 
What you are talking about here, this proposal that you have put forward today, is reparations for African-Americans, at the sum of about $14 trillion, with a T., dollars.
 
The report you're referring to goes back to 1968, this commission report. There has been a lot of talk about reparations, but here is your breakdown.
 
Who is paying for this? And how can we, as a country, afford this at this time?
 
JOHNSON:  Well, Bret, as in always, the people who pay for revenue investments that this country need are us, the taxpayers.
 
And the taxpayers will pay for this, because for two reasons, particularly. One, it is an atonement for 200-plus years of slavery, desegregation -- I mean, segregation, Jim Crowism, and a denial of equal opportunity rights.
 
But the result of that payment would be to bring African-Americans equal to white Americans in terms of opportunity, wealth and income.
 
So, instead of looking at it as a payment, look at it as an investment in 40 million African-Americans, who deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity.
 
And much of that investment, as if you were looking at any other kind of investment, will come back to this country in the form of African-Americans taking the responsibility to build their communities, to build their families, to become successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs, to pay taxes --
 
BAIER:  Yes.
 
JOHNSON:  -- to contribute to the society, as they have done always, even without this form of compensation.
 
BAIER:  Right. Let me--
 
JOHNSON:  But unless white America recognizes the need for reparations to atone for this, this country will always be, as the Kerner Commission reports it, separate and unequal.
 
BAIER:  Well, it's interesting. It's obviously been talked about. It's been batted around in political circles for several years.
 
Here's the now Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, referencing reparations and talking about that.
 
Take a listen.
 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
 
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  We have tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a Civil War, by passing landmark civil rights legislation.
 
We have elected an African-American president. No one currently alive was responsible for that. And I don't think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.
 
First of all, it'd be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate.
 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
 
BAIER:  President Trump says he doesn't think it's happening. He was asked about it.
 
And in 2019, March, The Washington Post quoted Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, saying: "I don't feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I will be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago."
 
So, Bob, it looks like an uphill battle politically.
 
JOHNSON:  Well, it may be an uphill battle, but the last time we had slavery, that uphill battle led to civil war.
 
And millions of Americans, brothers against brothers, fathers against sons, caused this country to lose its belief that it was an American exceptionalism that would provide opportunity to everyone.
 
So, I look at it this way, to Senator McConnell, to Joe Biden, and the president, is this, we have tried every prescription that the senator could put forward, that Joe Biden could put forward, to President Trump could put forward.
 
We have talked about, let's educate African-Americans. We have talked about, let's build the inner cities, let's invest in apprenticeship, and let's invest in training.
 
The end result, Bret, is, none of that has ever worked. So, why not try--
 
BAIER:  Yes.
 
JOHNSON:  -- what has been done in other parts of the world?
 
There were many, many Germans after World War II who never supported the Nazis and who -- whose children never supported the Nazis, but they found it in their heart and in their mind of responsibility to provide compensation, reparations, if you will, to millions of Jews.
 
BAIER:  Yes.
 
JOHNSON:  We gave reparations to Japanese Americans who were interred during World War II. You can even argue that land given to Indian Americans that was stolen from them by white settlers was reparation.
 
I think there's a problem -- and this is what I think is the cause -- that white America has an inability to embrace the notion that the original sin of slavery does -- deserves some recompense.
 
And my argument is there is no problem in trying to implement a cash payment to 40 million African-Americans to let them achieve equality of opportunity that has been denied to them for over 200 years.
 
What is the absolute downside?
 
BAIER:  Well, it's going to be a fascinating -- it'll be a fascinating political discussion, definitely.
 
Again, we're waiting for the White House statement shortly.
 
I just want to ask one more thing.
 
The last time we saw a statement from you -- this proposal today and reaction to all that's been happening over the past few days -- but the last time you put out a statement was about Joe Biden, and when he had that conversation that, if you support Trump or you're thinking about it, "You ain't black."
 
You had a very pointed statement after that. You still feel that way today, as you're putting forward this new proposal?
 
JOHNSON:  Well, I absolutely feel that way, because some of this goes hand in hand.
 
For the life of me, Bret, I cannot understand why white Americans feel that they have the right to determine what is in the best interests of African-Americans. And Joe Biden did exactly that.
 
And when you hear Senator McConnell talking about his grandpa, he -- no one is alive, how would you do it, if Elon Musk can put a rocket ship on the moon, we have some of the brightest minds in business and in information and data analysis.
 
There's nothing in this country, other than the mind-set that black Americans do not deserve cash reparations, that keeps this from happening.
 
BAIER:  Well--
 
JOHNSON:  We give money, billions and billions of dollars, to countries who we want to model after ourselves to support democracy, to create opportunity for their people.
 
BAIER:  Right.
 
JOHNSON:  What is wrong with giving the same amount of money to equalize opportunity for our own citizens, African-Americans, who have done everything this country has asked them to do, from fighting in wars, to supporting--
 
BAIER: Well, the price tag -- the price tag is going to make people raise their eyebrows, I think, Bob, at $14 trillion. But I promise you, we're going to cover this.
 
It's fascinating to talk to you. You have a great perspective, as an entrepreneur and a leader in the African-American community. And we appreciate it.
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