BET Founder Urges Black Lives Matter to Form Independent Political Party

Robert Johnson, co-founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television) wants to see Black Lives Matter become a permanent part of American politics. He suggested transforming the movement into an official political party in an email to the movement's leaders and supporters this week.

Johnson opened up about this possibility, which he explained would solidify Black voices as their own entity, in a conversation with CNBC's Squawk On The Street.

"I've been convinced for a long time that 40 million African Americans who tend to vote as a block in one of the two parties limit their leverage in getting action from both parties," he began. "I think it's time that African Americans start an independent party, not be an appendage of one party or ignored by the other party, and using their leverage in a democracy to say we stand for things that are principally focused on the interest of the 40 million African Americans, and not have that diluted."

Robert Johnson
Robert L. Johnson, BET Founder and Chairman, at BET's 25th Anniversary in 2005. Getty/L. Cohen/WireImage for BET Network

Johnson explained that current parties in America don't properly represent Black interests. "It's a fact that, had African American interests been fully embraced by one of two of the dominant parties, we wouldn't have the tremendous social, economic, racial issues that we have now."

The Black Lives Matter movement became a formal entity in 2013 when it was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. It has campaigned for equality and spoken against police brutality, among a list of issues currently affecting the Black community.

The movement has been in the press again following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer, who knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. Other, recent Black murders are causing widespread outrage, too, like that of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her home by three officers none of whom have faced arrest.

While not every American is on board with the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a considerable show of support. A poll by Pew Research showed 67 percent of Americans stand behind the movement, but how would it transition to an independent political party?

Johnson explained. "Ultimately, an independent party—and this happens in all multi-party democracies—they run their own candidates in the various jurisdictions. They run them on the local level, state level and out of state at the national level. Because this country sort of operates on an electoral college approach to deciding who is the President of the United States, moving votes from one candidate to another can ultimately determine who is the next President of the United States."

He used former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an example. "The low turnout of African American votes in key, battleground states, it ultimately gave the election to Donald Trump."

CNBC shared the video interview on Twitter, and commenters were split on Johnson's idea. Some love the idea of a new political party that stands firmly for the Black community. Others didn't think "splitting the democratic vote" would be helpful come Presidential election years. A handful even pointed to Joe Biden as the best way to address equality reform in America.

Newsweek reached out to the Black Lives Matter movement to see if forming an independent political party is something they'd consider but didn't immediately hear back.

BET Founder Urges Black Lives Matter to Form Independent Political Party | Culture