Once upon a time black male “cool” was defined by the ways in which black men confronted the hardships of life without allowing their spirits to be ravaged. They took the pain of it and used it alchemically to turn the pain into gold. That burning process required high heat. Black male cool was defined by the ability to withstand the heat and remain centered. It was defined by black male willingness to confront reality, to face the truth, and bear it not by adopting a false pose of cool while feeding into fantasy; not by black male denial or by assuming a “poor me” victim identity. It was defined by individual black males daring to self-define rather than be defined by others.
The above paragraph is a quote from Bell Hooks’ We Real Cool. The last chapter of the book does an excellent job at wrapping up some of the issues with the black male psyche and what we (as a whole) refer to it as cool. If you’ve been reading this blog lately you might have noticed I’ve broached certain subjects about black masculinity, black america and things I feel black people need to do more of. This is because I’m really getting tired of the things I see on a day to day basis.
The idolization of drug culture, rappers, athletes have for too long been at the forefront of black male thought. Besides the drug culture there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a rapper or an athlete but everyone can’t be one. The odds of making it to the NBA/NFL are very slim and the odds of making it as a successful rapper are even slimmer. The work ethic combined with skill it takes to make it in either field is nothing short of considerable. A lot of black youth (read: not all) are attracted to the allure of big money and don’t think about the work (or sometimes not) that it takes to get where they are.
What happened to admiring respectable careers? What happened to reaching a certain station in life by working hard? Everything can’t come easy. If it did then everyone would have it.
Dissecting hip-hop it seems that it has no transformative power, no ability to intervene on politics of domination and turn the real lives of black men around. It offers black males very little spiritual nourishment. Hip hop has a sense of false bravado. Its counterfeit. I listen to hip-hop but lately I’ve found myself shying away from a lot of it. Especially those artists with negative connotations. Maybe I’m just getting old. But something tells me being older doesn’t have anything to do with wanting people who have an influence in black culture to be more socially responsible.
I wish we could get back to defining cool by not how much money you have or what clothes you wear. Why isn’t cool exemplified by being a man of integrity? I wish cool was still characterized by the content of a man’s character. I wish cool was still represented by intelligence. Until we can get back to that I’ll be whatever the opposite of cool is.