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Billionaire Robert Smith Believes Private Corporations Should Pay Reparations If the Transatlantic Slave Trade Helped Build Their Wealth

Billionaire Robert F. Smith believes the private sector should invest billions into reparations for the Black community.

The Vista Equity CEO made the suggestion during a video interview with Reuters published on Wednesday, Aug. 12. He believes companies that benefited from the Transatlantic slave trade should invest in reparations for Black Americans.

Vista Equity CEO Robert F. Smith (above) argued private companies should invest in reparations for Black Americans if their wealth benefitted from the Transatlantic slave trade. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for RFK Human Rights)

“I think that’s going to be a political decision that’s going to have to be made and decided upon,” the 57-year-old Smith said. “But I think corporations have to also think about, well, what is the right thing to do?”

He argued companies “can bring their expertise and capital to repair the communities that they are directly associated with in the industries in which they cover. I think that has to be a very, a very thoughtful approach. But I think action needs to be taken,” he continued.

Smith also asserted the coronavirus outbreak has allowed the world to slow down and pay attention to racial inequality.

“It was the silence of the pandemic, i.e., sheltering at home that gave us all a chance to witness certain acts against the African American community,” Smith said. “The killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in particular, those three in that period of time, that raised the consciousness and the humanity of Americans and people throughout the world are saying this is just wrong, this is unjust, and enough is enough.”

Smith, reportedly the richest Black person in America, made headlines last year when he promised a group of Morehouse seniors he would pay off their student loans during his commencement speech. He also signed the “Giving Pledge,” which was created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy.

He is worth an estimated $5 billion.

In June, Smith suggested corporations allocate two percent of their annual net income toward “reparative” payments to the Black community, per Forbes. He based his figure on data that found the average American household gives two percent of its income to charity. Smith noted the net income for the 10 largest banks in the United States within the past decade is $968 billion and two percent of that figure is $19.4 billion that could help empower Black Americans.

“Nowhere is structural racism more apparent than in corporate America,” Smith said during a keynote speech at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. “If you think about structural racism and access to capital, 70 percent of African-American communities don’t even have a branch, bank of any type.”

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