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Bob Johnson Urges Dialogue on Wealth Gap Between Whites and Blacks
Johnson Argues that Wealth Gap Compares to "Compelling National Interest Test" Which Could Justify Race-Recognition Remedies
-- In an address to Members of Congress and participants attending a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, called for a national discussion about the growing wealth gap which he referred to as a "wealth gap Tsunami threatening African American families". He cited the recent Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University study, among other studies, which conclude "the wealth gap between white and African American families has more than quadrupled over the course of a generation; the racial wealth gap increased by $75,000, from $20,000 to $95,000; and, at least 25 percent of African Americans have no
assets." According to the U.S. Census data, "white household median net worth is 10 times that of Black households. The median net worth for African Americans was $11,800 compared to $118,000 for whites."
In response to addressing this compelling national crisis, Johnson stated that, "We must admit the harsh reality of a history of institutionalized racism and economic discrimination against African Americans is the primary cause of wealth disparity between Black and white Americans" and "we must be willing to talk about race recognition remedies at the highest levels of government as well as between Black and white Americans."
Johnson suggests that the wealth disparity between African Americans and whites compares to the "compelling national interest test" cited in the Supreme Court's Adarand decision where the Court ruled ?a racial or ethnic classification must serve a compelling interest and must be narrowly tailored to serve that interest.' In his remarks to the Caucus, Johnson listed several race recognition policy initiatives that could be discussed. For example, allow African American families earning less than $250,000 annually to defer all federal income taxes, without interest, provided tax savings are placed into a 401(k) type savings account which can only be drawn out at retirement or upon death at which time the government would be reimbursed for the deferred taxes. He pointed out that this would allow the gain on the 401(k) investment to be available to the families at retirement or passed on to future generations.
"I wish the answers to close the wealth gap were as politically palatable and acceptable as proposals to make our public schools better for minorities, to retrain minority workers for the new jobs market, and aggressively enforce laws against racial and economic discrimination. Over the years, this Nation has been committed to all of these objectives, but this effort will not close the Black wealth gap. I recognize that public policy based on race is extremely provocative and controversial but controversy should not prevent a reasonable dialogue about a societal dilemma that is real and economically devastating in its potential to millions of African Americans," he concluded.
About The RLJ Companies
The RLJ Companies, founded by Robert L. Johnson, is an innovative business network that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies. The RLJ Companies seeks to target undiscovered or underserved markets then exercise solid management to achieve results. Within The RLJ Companies portfolio, Johnson owns or holds majority interests in businesses operating in banking, private equity, hospitality, automobile dealerships, entertainment, and video lottery terminal (VLT) gaming. The RLJ Companies is headquartered in Bethesda, MD, with affiliate operations in Charlotte, NC; Orlando, FL; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; San Juan, PR; and Monrovia, Liberia. Prior to founding The RLJ Companies, Johnson was founder and chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET). For more information go to www.rljcompanies.com.