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‘It’s Not Going To Close The Weather Gap’: Bob Johnson on the Removal of Confederate Landmarks

Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson recently weighed in on the Black Lives Matter movement in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Jun 24. During his appearance, the media maven zeroed on the topic of people taking down Confederate statues and other racist monuments, calling them “borderline anarchists.” Johnson also challenged the belief that Black people supported this type of conduct. 

People “who are basically tearing down statues, trying to make a statement, are basically borderline anarchists, the way I look at it,” Johnson explained. He added, “They really have no agenda other than the idea we’re going to topple a statue.” The destruction of racist monuments comes as anti-racist protests continue to spread across the country following the death of George Floyd.

Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET. (Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage)

Earlier this week, the statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike was taken down in Washington, D.C. The figure had been a center of controversy for decades, with several local officials repeatedly calling for its removal, according to a report from The Guardian. Meanwhile, on May 30, a statue of lawmaker Edward Ward Carmack was toppled at the State Capitol in Nashville. Carmack notably endorsed the lynching of three black men in the 1900s and incited a mob to attack Black activist and newspaper editor Ida B. Wells.

Critics have long condemned Confederate statues, the majority of which were constructed long after the South lost the Civil War. Many understood these statues erected in the name of heritage as in fact a means to intimidate Blacks and to symbolize white power. As of June 2020, a least 22 cities have either removed or approved the removal of Confederate monuments, according to a report from ABC News.

However, the 74-year-old businessman essentially called the whole objection a waste of time. “It’s not going to give a kid whose parents can’t afford college money to go to college. It’s not going to close the labor gap between what white workers are paid and what Black workers are paid. And it’s not going to take people off welfare or food stamps,” Johnson told the Fox reporter.   

Johnson also attacked the perception that Black people supported this growing trend. “People tearing down statues have the mistaken assumption that Black people are sitting around cheering for them.” He further maintained that the demolition of the statues was just a way for white people to “assuage their guilt.” “White Americans seem to think that if they do sort of emotional or drastic things that Black people are going to say ‘Oh my God, white people love us because they took down a statue of Stonewall Jackson,” Johnson explained. He added, “frankly, we don’t give a damn.”

Johnson’s blanket description of those removing these monuments as white stands in contrast to video and photography taken at these demonstrations showing in some instances mixed crowds of mostly, but not all, white people participating in the toppling of monuments. His characterization of leftist whites making patronizing gestures to gain Black approval would have been a familiar trope for the audience of the conservative Fox News network.

The network founder recently has been making the rounds on news programs on other topics concerning the Black community, including reparations and creating a Black independent party

Earlier this month, Johnson called for $14 trillion in reparations to be distributed to Black American descendants of slaves. In an interview with CNBC, Johnson stated that “wealth transfer is what’s needed” to fight racial inequality and narrow the wealth gap.

Johnson also penned an open letter to the “leaders and supporters” of the BLM movement, asking them to consider establishing “a formal independent political party.” The businessman stressed that Black people shouldn’t vote for political candidates just because they align with a specific political party. Johnson acknowledged that the idea was not new but said such a strategy could see African-Americans achieve their political goals given full commitment.

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