ColumnistsJames ClingmanOp-EdOpinion

CLINGMAN: Bob Johnson on Blacks’ Path Forward

One post-election highlight 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 — intriguing to say the least.

After the meeting, Mr. Johnson issued 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 it than that.

How do I know that? I’m glad you asked.

Mr. Johnson graciously allowed me to interview him as well, and 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 Dems, without reciprocity. His words brought to mind similar words by Carter G. Woodson and Malcolm X on that same point. Mr. 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. 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 was asking black folks, “What do you have to lose” by voting for him? My immediate answer to his question was another question: “What do we have to gain?”

Without my leading Mr. Johnson in any way, he 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.”

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 startups 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 that 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). I never mentioned our movement to him during our conversation, but his answers to my inquiries definitely substantiated the direction THE One Million is taking to move black people from our current status to our highest potential.

There was so much we discussed, and Mr. Johnson’s responses, insights, and directions are just what we need to do NOW. We cannot afford to wait, to analyze, to meet, to hold a convention or continue to theorize the future and lament the past. We can shape our future, we can determine our destiny simply by doing what not only Bob Johnson said but what many of our elders have said over the years. We simply need to ACT.

My entire Q&A with Bob Johnson will be published soon, but I wanted to let my readers know about it now, so that we can start moving immediately to leverage our dollars and our votes against the two systems that run this nation and the world: Economics and Politics. The OMCCBCV has already planned to kick off one part of that strategy in February 2017. Stay tuned.

Please watch for my entire interview with Bob Johnson and start planning for major changes in the way we play politics and the way we use our economic clout to build a strong foundation for our children and grandchildren. What Mr. Johnson shared with me is not esoteric or proprietary, and it’s certainly not new. However, sometimes with our people, the same message can come from different sources and depending on the messenger our people will follow it. I am grateful that Mr. Johnson chose to speak out on these issues. More to come.

James Clingman’s latest book, “Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.

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