BET Founder Doesn’t Know Why Black Unemployment is So High

How can such a smart man be so clueless? Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Robert 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.”

Johnson doesn’t know why Black unemployment is so high? One of the reasons is that millions have been paying, and those payments (stolen from tax payers) have hurt the poor. We have created an entitlement society that has trapped the poor in a never-ending cycle of dependency and blame.

There is no doubt that racial discrimination in America caused hardship, terror, and created barriers to black upward mobility. But nearly 50 years of liberal remedies have done far more harm than good. Certainly many blacks have benefitted by a number of government programs, but many millions more have not.

Breaking down legal barriers was a good and necessary thing. As hard as educational and economic advancement is for blacks because of centuries of discrimination and bigotry, government programs have become impediments to black advancement.

The Jackie Robinson Film 42 will hit theaters on April 12th. It wasn’t the government that made Robinson the first “Negro” in the modern era to play in the Major Leagues. Robinson was not warmly welcomed. In fact, he was subjected to racial epithets and abuse.

While Robinson was not the best player from the Negro Leagues, he was the one best suited to break the color barrier:

“The example of Robinson’s character and unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.”

Robinson’s past history shows that he was a fighter. He did not take discrimination lightly. He fought it at every turn. Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers knew that in order to open the doors to the major league to blacks, the first person through that door would have to be someone “with guts enough not to fight back.”

So what happened? Blacks began to flock to the ball parks. This meant money for the owners. Money is colorblind. When the owners saw their receipts go up, they were quick to look for more black players from the Negro Leagues. In the end, the Negro Leagues went out of business.

It wasn’t all “sweetness and light” in the Dodgers’ dugout. Some players said they would refuse to play if Robinson played. Dodgers manager Leo Durocher told the players, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f**kin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.”1

Robinson wasn’t chosen to break the color barrier just because he was black. He had to be able to play baseball well and make money for the Dodgers.

Robert Johnson should take a page from Branch Rickey’s play book. Instead of looking to government to solve black unemployment, he needs to get in the game. Put some of his nearly billion dollars into education programs outside the government schools. Atlanta would be a good place to start since 35 public (government) school officials were just indicted because of a cheating scandal.

There are a lot of black athletes, music moguls, and business owners who could put their money, expertise, and discipline into an investment pool to help poor kids break free from the liberal plantation. Here’s a list of 18 of them. I’m sure a lot of others would join them.

These should not be give-away-programs. The goal is to make money. Private entitlements subsidies are no better than government entitlements.

The opportunities are out there. The poor need to quit complaining, stop blame-shifting, and get their hands out of other people’s pockets.

  1. Bill Kirwin, Out of the Shadows: African American Baseball from the Cuban Giants to Jackie Robinson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 198. []