My friend Courtland Milloy, a longtime columnist for The Washington Post, wrote an interesting column last week questioning whether African Americans refuse to criticize President Barack Obama because he’s black.

“I hope President Obama appreciates the grand bargain he’s getting from African Americans: unwavering support, stratospheric approval rating, muted exasperation when he disappoints, vociferous defense when he’s under attack,” Milloy wrote. “But what do black people get in return?”

Milloy wrote correctly that Obama enjoys overwhelming support from African Americans even while the black unemployment rate is twice the rate of whites.

My problem with Milloy’s column, however, started when I read comments from Robert Johnson, the black billionaire and founder of BET who supported Hillary Clinton over Obama in the 2008 presidential race and has been criticizing Obama ever since.

“Our poll showed that there is great pride in having Obama as the leader of the free world,” Johnson told Milloy after commissioning a Zogby to survey African American attitudes. “But that pride is part of a Faustian bargain we made. We will not push Obama to pull us up if we think that doing so might bring him down.”

“Many black people feel that it would be a betrayal if we tried to push Obama to do more than the system would allow him to do,” Johnson said.

“I don’t think there will be a major effort to call Obama out for black unemployment, income disparities or issues such as glass ceilings for African Americans in corporate America,” he added. “As the first black president, he gets a pass from us.”

But here’s my problem with Johnson: What more is Obama supposed to do?

He has repeatedly convened some of the nation’s most successful businessmen at the White House to discuss ways to stimulate the economy. He has urged businessmen to start hiring more Americans and put folks back to work. He has been a vocal proponent of creating more manufacturing jobs, green jobs and job-training programs that would benefit black Americans.

And for all of Obama’s power of persuasion, nearly every piece of proposed legislation he offers has been blocked by vengeful Republicans in Congress. So he’s completely stymied – and Johnson knows it.

More important, the president has said time and time again that he can’t solve the unemployment problem alone. He can’t strong arm businessmen into hiring black folks, he can only lobby them; he can’t hire people himself, so he needs ideas and assistance from others.

So my question to Johnson is this: Where is your plan for reducing the black unemployment rate? And what exactly do you want Obama to do to about it?

It’s so easy to criticize from the outside looking in, but surely Johnson, a very successful businessman who has hired hundreds – or maybe thousands — of black employees, must have some brainy ideas for spurring employment for black people.

Or maybe not.

Years ago, before Johnson sold BET to Viacom, he was roundly criticized for not offering black viewers any educational programming on BET, but instead relied on booty-shaking videos. He was once reportedly quoted as saying:  “The “E” in BET stands for entertainment, not education.”

So now, Johnson, the man who wanted no parts of educating black people, is calling out Obama for not doing enough for black people?

Here’s the real deal: Johnson never liked Obama, and that’s ok. He’s entitled to support anyone he wants for president. But it is the way in which Johnson has disrespected Obama that gives me pause. It’s the reason I believe Johnson lacks credibility in this debate.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Johnson raised eyebrows with one of the more perplexing comments of the race by comparing Obama to actor Sidney Poitier.

“I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that–- I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book,” Johnson told reporters.

“That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life,’” Johnson said.

I’m all for constructive criticism, but there’s absolutely nothing constructive here.  I didn’t understand the reference to Sidney Poitier back in 2008, and I still don’t understand it today. Johnson offers bizarre critiques with no solutions, reasonable suggestions or intelligent recommendations.

So what’s the point?

It’s the same old Johnson: He’s still lobbing grenades at the White House from the comfort of his billionaire bunker.

Also On Black America Web:

19 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Bob Johnson Blasts Obama But Offers No Solutions to Urban Problems

  1. Fbob on said:

    Thanks to Bob, I’ve been laid off for a year. I seem to be the only one from the company that was laid off. Everyone else kept their jobs. Haven’t found another job yet. My electricity is about to be cut off, rent is paid but the landlord is on my back because he knows about my situation, IRS on my back. I tried his website and tried to upload my resume but his website is messed up and needs a lot of work. Thanks Bob

  2. Now that Obama is in his second (and last) term, he needs to take a stand… It’s not going to matter now that he’s been re-elected… But I have to admit – who’s running the country, Obama or Boehner…
    Why is it that, the Speaker of the House ALWAYS has a comment After Obama talks!
    Never, in our previous presidential news-broadcasts has any, speaker of the house, has had an opinion about “Every” topic behind our Commander-in-Chief!

    Anyhow, Obama could allocate just One Billion to a job creation program specifically for young Black males 21 to 29 – those caught between having a H.S. Diploma but no college degree, are deemed unemployable – yet, are starting families that they need to support through employment!

    Take One Billion – divided by 10 = 100 Million each for ten major cities – divide that by $30,000 – a middle-class salary to adequately support families w/o the need of Food Stamps or other Gov’t Supplements = over 3,000 jobs…

    While not a lot of $$ for Jobs, when you look at Exxon $20 Billion earnings $0 Zero in taxes… Back tax them $2 billion for NOT Hiring U.S. Workers… One of the major reasons why Major Corporations weren’t taxed as the money they “would have paid” in taxes was supposed to “create” jobs.

    The other 333 jobs = Administrators who’ll manage the funds to ensure that money IS spent towards actual salaries…

    High Schools should make learning how to type (w/o your thumbs) Mandatory! Learning at least one computer program language regardless of major!

    Our problems are “Fixable” but they DON’T want that… they want MORE for-profit Jails built for the Uneducated…
    Also chronicled in Red White AND Poor, how Economics & Outsourcing have Racially Divided America, via,
    Despite the title – America needs to practice Americanism first and come together as the Human Race!
    I would LOVE to be at a Roundtable Talk about the problems that plague the Black Race – just to set the record straight in the minds of White America!

  3. 06050412 on said:

    When Bob Johnson fired Tavis I got in his a__!! Johnson has no concievable idea what quality is. He’s cheap. He doesn’t want to invest in quality content either because of ignorance or apathy. Bob Johnson sold out Blacks before he sold BET to Viacom and he had/has nothing of substance to offer the Black community. Johnson never had a “get out the black vote” message. What does he care???

  4. Why does Bob Johnson think anything he has to say is important. After what he did to BET, he needs to go crawl in a hole and never surface again. All the money he has he can help a few million people go to school, start businesses etc. But he has done nothing but complain about President Obama. Bob Johnson, go fly a kite and keep going.

  5. Just My 2 Pennies on said:

    The only decent program on BET was Bobby Jones Gospel. Everything else was garbage. HE was able to sell BET (was called BEN at first) and make himself a Billionaire of that crap. He is only slightly better than a drug dealer or cartel and only because his programming did not physically kill communities.

  6. Obama’s like… I know blacks have the highest HIV rate…here, let me push it some more… y’all go on and be gay, spread the HIV amongst yourselves… let’s see how can I help… Oh yeah, I’ll stand behind gay marriage and promote homosexuality which has the highest rate for spread of HIV… don’t worry black folks… Obama care will provide you with a delighful cocktail of drugs that you must take daily in order to stay alive… Thanks for your vote…

  7. Gay marriage effort fails in Illinois, despite Obama push; ‘I’ve never been sadder.’
    In many ways, African-Americans are bearing the brunt of the HIV crisis in the United States. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). African-Americans receive more AIDS diagnoses and experience more HIV-related deaths than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
    •Young black/African American MSM aged 13 to 24 are especially affected by HIV. In 2010, ◦They accounted for approximately 4,800 new HIV infections—more than any other age group or race of MSM.

    Wow, your president really love his black constituants… glad he don’t love white folks that much… his love and appreciation comes with a death sentence…

  8. PRESIDENT OBAMA and no one eles can make these people work if they don’t want to work. You can put all kinds of jobs out there but if it is not what they want to do they want do it. So who’s fault it it now if they don’t have a job.

  9. Why haven’t some of these black business owners, and so-called black leaders started a serious Entrepreneur Training Program throughout the country??!! Even church leaders aren’t doing their part; yet millions of people keep piling into churches every Sunday listening to age old sermons that don’t solve anything in the REAL WORLD

  10. Aaron on said:

    What did you expect from a man that is against affirmative action, reparations and an apology for slavery which he stated in his book. He is a bronze John Kerry that’s all. Pharaoh was never the solution for us and he still is not. Only Black people who feel they are beyond the struggling masses have a hard time seeing this. The White House is still the home of the White agenda regardless of who is living there.

  11. 55th st silverbacks on said:

    the work that needs to be done, the “boots on da ground” are not at the white house nor at the feet of some rich guy regardless of color. IT IS THE JOB OF THE PEOPLE THAT SEEK BETTER LIFES,we have gotten to the point we complain without any work to change the issues. our president has been stiflied from any attempt to make headway in any of the problems he faces , and it is not by mistake.

  12. Granted, Obama is under this invisible microscope to “make absolutely sure” he does Not curry favor to his fellow Black Americans, I get it. What I don’t get is, the same way Bush Jr. “increased” the number of H1B Visa applications in January 2009 – Right before Obama’s inauguration, had the same right to repeal (or at least temporarily suspend) the entire H1B Visa program until further notice to bring down the entire U.S. Unemployment Rate!

    Now that our economy is “supposedly” picking up again, Blacks are no longer participating in the workforce. Latent unemployment along with the saturation of Guest Workers in the current job market make it virtually impossible for Black Americans to get hired!

    While Obama may not control Free Enterprise, he does control how many Guest Workers are allowed to enter this country, and can veto the program as he see’s fit.

    I honestly believe that Obama is afraid of Boehner (speaker of the house), and the dominance of White supremacy in Washington – not realizing how much actual “Power” he truly holds in his hands!

    Maybe he should borrow a page from the Reagan era, when Draconian practices on the labor force were normal, and enforce laws against corporations, via, Executive Order [“Employ America”] making penalties for Outsourcing so severe, it would eventually become more “cost” effective to hire American – over and above the H1B Guest Worker.

    If you think it’s bad now, what do you think will happen to all Americans – recent college grads, and those still looking for work, who’ll have to compete with the newly estimated 500,000+ H1B Visa’s slated to be issued in 2014?
    We have six months to urge Obama to repeal the H1B Visa program until more Blacks become employed –
    He needs to stand up and say so!

    • Chronicled in “Red White and Poor” How Outsourcing & Economics have Racially Divided America! Available via, Digital Download on and CreateSpace, via Paperback!

      • cache: We already know about how outsourcing, and immigration is adding to the dilemma of black unemployment. For me I don’t need to read another book, or article about it. What the country needs is SOLUTION(S) THAT ARE PUT INTO ACTION. Black business owners, and intellects need to get together for a think tank, and solve the problem (COME UP WITH PROGRAMS). In short they need to put their money, and actions where their mouths are. Talk is cheap. The government can’t solve all problems

    • it would appear that you have no idea about economics. H1B Visas are mainly allowing immigrant workers to come into the U.S. for jobs that citizens are either not qualified for or want too much money. In either case, blacks and everyone else need to work to make themselves more competitive and if need be start their own businesses. Don’t blame Obama for your shortcomings…..remember, the revolution will not be televised…

    • You can’t be serious…..really. I doubt President Obama is scared of Boehner, and his cohorts.. I’m sure the President realizes the obstacles…..but scared…..I doubt it.

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