Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

After reading Axios' 10 myths about the racial wealth gap, BET co-founder and entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson is issuing a challenge to politicians, civic leaders and Black organizations across the country: Refute the findings or lay out a set of actionable solutions.

What he's saying: And if they can't, "they need to have the courage to stand up to Black people and say, 'You are perpetually a second-class economic population in America,'" Johnson said during an hourlong one-on-one interview Sunday.

  • "Say to Black America, all 40 million of us, 'Guys, you will never attain the wealth of white families in this country ... Get used to it.'"

Where it stands: Johnson asserts that there is only one way to truly close the U.S. racial wealth gap. "The simple conclusion is white America, if they really want to see Black people equally wealthy to them: Give Black people more wealth, more capital, more cash," he says.

  • "White people, from the beginning of this country, have had more access to capital to create wealth than Black people. And wealth in a capitalist society — or access to capital in a capitalist society — propels you to more wealth."

Why it matters: The man who created the first Black-owned company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and then sold it for a reported $3 billion argues that the research in the story "devastated a generation of notions as to how Black people could compete in a capitalist society and get equal opportunity and access to capital."

The big picture: Johnson now asserts that public officials and organizations like the Urban League, NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus need to change course in their advocacy.

Yes, but: Johnson is not hopeful.

  • Even if Congress passed H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, he's convinced legislative actions would only invest in the same programs proven not to work by years of research from the Fed, Department of Commerce, Brookings Institution and others.
  • And having spoken to a litany of fellow CEOs and entrepreneurs, he says the private sector has "bought into what you call myths ... And therefore, they will take no other alternatives because they believe in the dogma."

The last word: "If government-subsidized, means-tested programs don't work ... then go to the other way, which is [to] give wealth to Black people using tax policy. And reparations is nothing but tax policy."

  • "If you taxed every white American eight dollars a day for 30 years, you'd get to $14 trillion of wealth being transferred to Black America."

Go deeper

9 hours ago - Podcasts

The pandemic reality for Black women founders

The U.S. for months has faced a national reckoning over simultaneous crises that Black Americans, especially, are facing: structural racism and violence, health disparities in COVID-19 outcomes and devastating economic impacts from the pandemic.

Axios Re:Cap discusses the situation facing the founders in the Black Girl Ventures network with Shelly Bell, entrepreneur and founder of Black Girl Ventures.

Gender wealth gap increasing amid pandemic, women's financier says

Ellevest Co-founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck Photo: Axios screenshot

The gender wealth gap has been growing during the coronavirus pandemic, Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of financial service company Ellevest, said at an Axios event on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Women have had to deal with a disproportionate amount of job loss during the pandemic because they're more likely to have jobs deemed essential, Krawcheck noted.

George Floyd's death forces small-town America to confront racism

Data: IPUMS NHGIS, University of Minnesota, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The killing of George Floyd and changing demographics across the country have brought discussions over racism and police use of force to small-town America.

Why it matters: White Americans are growing older as the younger generations across the country become more diverse. The shift in what had been predominantly white communities is sparking protests and conversations about racial inequality. Many small towns are realizing for the first time how multiracial they are.