Barack Obama blamed media images of rappers and pro athletes for a lot of the pressure facing young Black men today and offered some advice while speaking with NBA star Stephen Curry at an event in Oakland, Calif.
The event marked the fifth anniversary of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance,
founded by the Obama Foundation after the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, which triggered protests across the U.S.
“If you’re really confident about your financial situation you’re probably not going to be wearing an eight-pound chain around your neck,” Obama said. “If you are very confident about your sexuality you don’t have to have eight women around you twerking. I mean why are you … why are you all like …? You seem stressed, that you got to be acting that way.”
Obama mentioned different types of cultural and societal pressures young men face these days, BET reported. The 44th president attributed much of the pressure to media images of rappers and professional athletes.
“We live in a culture where our worth is measured by how much money we have and how famous we are,” he told the audience of mostly Black and brown young men. “I will tell you, at the end of the day, the thing that will give you confidence is not that. I know a lot of rich people that are all messed up.”
The alliance works to close opportunity gaps facing young men from underrepresented communities. Obama urged the audience to become strong examples for their communities by focusing on self-confidence rather than chasing wealth or women.
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“I’ve got one woman who I’m very happy with, right?” Obmam said. “And she’s a strong woman.”
Obama and Golden State Warriors basketball player Curry had very different experiences growing up but have developed a strong friendship, Newsweek reported. They play golf together regularly.
Obama said he only met his father once and was “all kinds of screwed up” during his high school days. Curry, by contrast, said his father, former NBA player Dell Curry, was a “consistent presence” in his life. He credited his parents with helping him overcome his lack of confidence.
“The confidence to kind of get over that hump was a process,” Curry said. “The swagger that you see on the court right now, it wasn’t always there. It was a constant struggle.”
Obama said his confidence came out only after he changed his approach to life.
“I think I started to grow up when I stopped thinking about myself, and I started thinking about how I can be useful to other people,” Obama said. “The amazing thing is, when you help somebody, and you see that positive impact on somebody, that gives you confidence.”
Reactions to the Obama speech were all over the place on Twitter. Women mostly praised him while many men begged to differ.