BET’s Robert Johnson wants companies to be required to interview minority candidates

The Takeaway

Story by The Takeaway. Listen to audio above for full report.

While national unemployment remains at a high 9 percent, the rate among blacks is actually much worse.

In September, the most recent month for which statistics are available, black unemployment stood at 16 percent. That’s double the rate of whites, which stood at 8 percent.

Now comes Robert Johnson, the founder of BET and CEO of RLJ companies who would like to see a version of the National Football League’s Rooney Rule ( implemented across corporate America. Under the Rooney Rule, NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate for any head coach or senior football position that becomes open.

Kai Wright, editor of, says just such approach is critical if America is to get past the structural disadvantages and active discrimination that leads to such high levels of black unemployment.

“It’s a structural problem we’ve had for sometime and that we’d been working on for some time. It ranges from what is the average wealth an African-American holds,” he said, “onto what sort of job opportunities are available to you as you graduate high school and graduate college.”

Wright says there need to be programs implemented that not only are targeted at building employment opportunities for blacks, but also target cities where black unemployment is highest. For example, Wright says there are six cities where black unemployment is higher than 20 percent.

Richard Copeland, founder and owner of THOR Construction Companies, the country’s largest African-American-owned construction company, would conceivably benefit from a program designed to target the problems facing minorities and minority-owned business.

“The reality is, with the systems in place, those that traditionally have benefitted will continue to benefit,” he said. “The trickle-down effect doesn’t happen.”

Copeland would like to see corporate America comitt to interviewing minorities for senior positions and he says it’s absolutely in their best interest. Copeland says America will not prosper again until “all its citizens and all of its businesses are brought into the mainstream economy.”

“And that means targeting those that have been systematically excluded, like minority-owned businesses.”


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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