Persecution in America

Have President Obama's values shifted to conservative?

February 28, 2019

President Obama sounded like a conservative Tuesday at the My Brother's Keeper Alliance Summitt in Oakland, Calif., when he addressed hundreds of young men of color alongside basketball superstar Steph Curry.

Obama talked to the young men about the virtues of monogamy. He shared his personal experiences growing up without a dad. He also offered a helpful, traditional, definition of manhood: “being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate.”

When identifying where messages that run contrary to his own come from, Obama decried hip-hop's negative influence.


“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. In addition, he criticized the objectification of women and sexual immorality promoted by hip-hop.

I grew up influenced by hip-hop in many of the negative ways that the former president described. But I learned to make excuses for myself because I embraced a certain moral relativism, telling myself that it was OK for me to hurt myself and others because of how unfair the world was to me.

There are deep roots to Obama’s vision for what a better America for young men of color looks like. With his My Brother's Keeper initiative, the former president is participating in a long and storied African-American political tradition of reminding young men that a strong moral compass makes a difference.

This tradition is present in different approaches to black political leadership – from Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Martin Luther King Jr. In this tradition, it's imperative that all people regardless of race or class turn inward when thinking about how to make the world a better place, rather than narrowly focusing on what others are doing to them or for them.