My interview with black billionaire Bob Johnson

James Clingman | 12/23/2016, 6 a.m.
One of the main things Johnson discussed is our penchant to vote as a bloc for one party, in this ...
James Clingman says that the only thing stopping us from having an equity fund to assist mid-level businesses is our lack of consciousness and willingness to sacrifice for, and support one another. Courtesy Photo/NNPA

— One of the post-election highlights for me was the meeting between Donald Trump and Bob Johnson. Billionaire to billionaire, Democrat to Republican, black to white, businessman-to-businessman, capitalist-to-capitalist, meeting on a relatively even playing field to discuss some of the “what now” issues was intriguing to say the least. After the meeting, Johnson wrote a press release and did several interviews to disclose the particulars of that meeting.

While the press summed up Johnson’s comments in one sentence (“Let’s give Trump a shot”), there was much more to the meeting than that. I know that because I interviewed him after his meeting with Trump. During our nearly one-hour conversation, he spoke openly about his political position vis-à-vis the election of Donald Trump, and his thoughts, recommendations and reflections on a black strategy moving forward.

One of the main things Johnson discussed is our penchant to vote as a bloc for one party, in this case the Democrats, without reciprocity. His words brought to mind similar words by Carter G. Woodson and Malcolm X on that same point. Johnson recommended that black folks should be independent and bloc-vote only for candidates who support our interests, locally and nationally, regardless of their party affiliation. Let the church say, “Amen!”

Bob Johnson, based upon what he called a “seismic shift” in our politics, said we must follow what former U.S. Representative William “Bill” Clay, Sr. told us: “Your political philosophy must be selfish and pragmatic. You must start with the premise that you have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.” My follow-up question was, “Then would you recommend that black voters register as ‘Non Party Affiliated’ at their local Boards of Elections?” His answer: “Absolutely, yes.” Bingo!

Remember when Donald Trump asked black folks, “What do you have to lose?” My immediate answer to his question was another question: “What do we have to gain?” Without me leading Johnson in any way, Johnson shared his message to Trump during their conversation on that question by saying, “You should be telling black people what they have to gain by voting for you.”

Mr. Johnson cited some very basic business principles, which he has put into play via his conglomerate of ventures, for instance, an equity fund to assist mid-level businesses. I asked if he thought blacks should form a similar collective fund for start-ups and micro businesses, and why we don’t have such a fund now. He agreed that we should have a fund, but on why we don’t have one, he simply said, “That’s a head, problem, Jim.” In other words, the only thing stopping us from doing that is our lack of consciousness and willingness to sacrifice for and support one another. Again, that’s much of what I have written and spoken about for 20 years: psychological enslavement.

By this time in our interview, I was on cloud nine because Robert L. Johnson, owner of numerous businesses and donor of millions of dollars to political campaigns, was confirming the work and philosophy of The One Million Conscious and Conscientious Black Contributors and Voters (OMCCBCV).