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Former President Barack Obama speaks at the MBK Rising! My Brother's Keeper Alliance Summit in Oakland, California on February 19, 2019. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Former President Barack Obama speaks at the MBK Rising! My Brother's Keeper Alliance Summit in Oakland, California on February 19, 2019. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Work hard, be kind

‘Michelle’s husband, Barack’ addresses toxic masculinity and ‘being a good human’

By WITW Staff on February 21, 2019

While introducing himself to a town hall meeting in Oakland, California, on Tuesday, former U.S. president Barack Obama set the tone for some of the ideas he’d go on to share about “being a man.”

“Hello, everybody. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Michelle’s husband, Barack,” he began.

Obama took the stage with Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry at the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance summit, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the youth support and violence prevention group he created during his time in office.

He went on to introduce his co-panelist as “Ayesha’s husband” — a reference to Ayesha Curry, a television personality and cookbook author.

During the event, Obama and Curry — flanked on stage by two dozen young men — spoke about how toxic masculinity tends to “trap” men at a young age. In the front rows of the audience were dozens more young adults, mostly boys and men of color, who had traveled from all around the United States.

In the course of the hour-long town hall, Obama drew a strong line between racism and toxic masculinity, observing that “racism historically in this society sends a message that you are ‘less than.’

“We feel we have to compensate by exaggerating stereotypical ways men are supposed to act,” he added. “And that’s a trap.”

He also noted cultural influences, using hip-hop and rap music as examples. “Let’s face it, a lot of hip hop and rap music is built around me showing how I got more money than you, I can disrespect you and you can’t do nothing about it, I’m going to talk about you and punk you,” Obama said.

‘Ironically, that actually shows the vulnerability that you feel,’ he added.

“If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down,” Obama said. “Show me by lifting somebody else up.”

Obama also weighed in on the importance of setting expectations in childhood. “We tend to rise to the expectations that are set for us,” he said. “If you say, ‘You treat young women with respect. They are not objects. They are humans with the same aspirations and desires, and they are just as worthy of respect as you are,’ that has an impact. We’ve got to set that tone early in life.”

‘All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate.”

Women and girls, Obama also noted, are better at creating spaces to work through their issues and support one another together. Michelle Obama “will get with her girlfriends, they’ll show up at noon, they’ll be talking, I’ll leave, come back three hours later, they are still talking,” he observed warmly, before joking that “they’ve broken down every terrible thing that I did, said he’s worth keeping anyway.”

Watch the complete town hall with President Barack Obama and NBA star Steph Curry below:

Read the full story at HuffPost.


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