BET Founder: ‘This Country Would Never Tolerate White Unemployment at 14 or 15 Percent’

March 29, 2013 - 11:27 AM
Bob Johnson

Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson (AP Photo/Pablo Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson said Tuesday that the nation would “never tolerate white unemployment at 14 or 15 percent” and yet unemployment for the black community has been double that of white Americans for over 50 years.

“This country would never tolerate white unemployment at 14 and 15 percent. No one would ever stay in office at 14 or 15 percent unemployment in this nation, but we’ve had that double unemployment for over 50 years,” Johnson said while speaking at the National Press Club about the gap between whites and blacks in America.

“The national average is 7.7 percent, and African-American unemployment is 13.8 percent. To be honest, it’s probably greater than that when you count the number of African-Americans who have simply given up on finding employment,” said Johnson, who is also founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies.

In 1972, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 11.2 percent in January of that year and as low as 9.4 percent in December of that same year. It dipped as low as seven percent in April 2000. The unemployment rate for blacks in February 2013 was 13.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Johnson said the challenge was to figure out why the unemployment rate for blacks has been so high, “and if that doesn’t change, somebody’s going to have to pay— 34 million African-Americans are not going to leave this country, millions of African-Americans who don’t have jobs.”

“Somebody’s going to have to pay for them. Somebody’s going to have to take care of them, and if somebody’s going to have to take care of them, that money’s got to come from somebody. And whoever’s paying for it is going to be upset about it, and they’re going to start looking for somebody to blame,” Johnson said.

According to the poll Johnson commissioned, which was conducted by Zogby, 50 percent of African-Americans blame the “failure of the education system for minorities/African-Americans” for high unemployment among blacks, while 48 percent say the “lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African-Americans” is to blame for unemployment in the black community.

Twenty-five percent of respondents blame the lack of government policies for the high rate of black unemployment. Eighteen percent don’t blame anyone or anything, and twelve percent aren’t sure.

“We can’t be competitive if we don’t put all our people on the field to work, and African-Americans can’t be consumers if they don’t have jobs. They can’t buy houses, and the reason the wealth gap is so high, we don’t [have] home ownership. We don’t have savings. We don’t have investments, and part of that is because we don’t have capital,” Johnson said.

“So a white household can buy a home. Now it’s even more difficult to buy a home. There’s talk about taking the home deduction away as part of a chance to balance the budget, so all of these things, as I said, however the solution comes out, it’s going to impact us,” he said.

The net worth of median white households is $118,000 and stands in stark contrast with the net worth of median black households at only $11,800, Johnson said, citing the Pew Research Center. Net worth is defined as assets minus liabilities.

In 2009, the median net worth of white households was $113,149, while the median net worth of black households was $5,677, according to a July 26, 2011 report released by the Pew Research Center entitled, “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics Twenty-to-One.”

“The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009,” a summary of the report said.

“These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009,” the report said.

“The wealth gap between black Americans and white Americans over the past 20 years has increased from $20,000 to $90,000, according to the Pew Research Center. And again, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of African-Americans born to middle-class families in the 60s will never attain the wealth of their parents,” Johnson said.