(Updated 12/8/2017) Championing a call for “economic nationalism,” as a means of restoring Black and Hispanic access to capital, former White House adviser and ultra-conservative website Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon recently addressed a capacity crowd of Black entrepreneurs in Northwest D.C.

Steve Bannon, chairman of conservative website Breitbart News, addressed a room full of Black entrepreneurs at a Dec. 5 luncheon held by a Black Republican super pac. (Photos by Shantella Sherman)

The “A Business Luncheon with Steven K. Bannon” was held Dec. 5 at The Willard InterContinental. Raynard Jackson and the Black Americans for a Better Future, a Black Republican super pac, hosted the event, where Bannon emphasized that economic nationalism was not racist.

“Economic nationalism does not care about your color, your race, your ethnicity.  It doesn’t care about your religion. It doesn’t care about your gender. It doesn’t care about your sexual preference. It’s all irrelevant. It cares only about one thing: you’re a citizen of the United States of America,” Bannon, who arrived with two armed bodyguards, told the crowd. “A central part of economic nationalism depends upon us empowering the Black and Hispanic entrepreneurial communities with one thing: access to capital.”

Bannon, who has been labeled as a white nationalist and racist, said that with two-thirds of minority net worth wiped out during the recession of 2008, Black businesses — especially banks — found it more difficult to gain access to capital. Minority businessmen didn’t cause the crisis, he said, yet none received relief under federal bailout plans.

“It’s a radical idea, but we are trying to protect American industries in the same ways that other nations protect theirs.  With limited market access companies are forced to make everything over there.  The jobs are over there,” Bannon said.  

“Think of when Baltimore was great, and Detroit was great, and St. Louis was great…, it was manufacturing jobs that made them great.  With a manufacturing job you can support a family and you cannot support an advanced economy on service jobs,” he continued, referencing jobs at franchises such as McDonalds. Bannon said he wants to establish task forces that will gather information on capital going into minority businesses, contract procurement and federal policies that affect all Americans.

Bannon was initially scheduled to attend the super pac’s Black Entrepreneur Summit in September but cancelled to support Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, an alleged child molester, who, in September, said that America was at it’s greatest during times of slavery.

However, Bannon’s questionable alliances did not prevent Jackson from likening him to the sentiments of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who said progress depends on the “unreasonable man.”

“Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are two of the most unreasonable men in the world.  Bannon is unreasonable enough to think that Black votes and the Black business community have value.  This guy is busy all over the world but has made a commitment to open a dialogue,” Jackson told the crowd.  “If you want to make America great again, if you want to create more opportunities for minority entrepreneurship, then this is the train you need to ride.  The train is leaving the station, so get your ticket.  Steve Bannon is the conductor.”

Harry Alford, founder, president and CEO of the D.C.-based National Black Chamber of Commerce, cited a sharp decline in Black business contracting and business lending from 10 percent and 9 percent, under former president George W. Bush, to rates of 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, under the Obama administration. Alford labeled the Obama White House as “a disaster” to the Black business community.

“As ironic as it sounds, when we finally got a Black president, he did not believe in Black business… But, thank God, the drought is over. We now have a business President,” Alford told the standing-room only crowd.  “We now have an SBA whose doors are open again, we now have people coming in being confirmed by the Senate that feel us and understand our situation.  We’re going to be great again.”

But, not all of the attendees took Bannon’s remarks at face value. Robert Wallace, founder and CEO of Baltimore-based BITHGROUP Technologies, told the AFRO that there were several business people who were skeptical of what Bannon had to say.

This whole idea of economic nationalism on the surface makes sense, but how do we assure that the benefit of economic nationalism benefits people who traditionally have not been allowed to be a part of economic prosperity like women and people of color,” Wallace said.  “You can’t talk about nationalism in one breath and not address racism, sexism and classism, which are impediments every American the benefits or the prosperity that economic nationalism is supposed to bring.”

Even though skeptical, he said he decided to attend the luncheon to open the conversation. “I’ll talk to anybody and maybe by talking we can find common ground, maybe,” Wallace said, referencing advice from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.