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Monday, January 01, 2007

Cool: The Ultimate Weapon of the Black Man

Donna Britt nailed 'Cool' in The Washington Post series "Being A Black Man" in her essay, "The Hard Core of Cool." We share some excerpts: Confidence is cool's most essential element. There's cool (Frank Sinatra, Joe Namath Johnny Depp)--black men remain cool's most imitated--there's cool and then there's brothercool. Know what else is vital to cool? Authenticity. A whiff of falseness or visible exertion chases it away. Cool is grace made masculine, the seamless melding of emotional authority with physical poise.

No other group's identity is as steeped in the necessity of appearing cool, or in the expectation that they instinctively bring coolness to the table. That expectation is fueled by black men's outsize influence on music, language and culture, and by white artists--Elvis, Eminem, Justin Timberlake--who mimic them. Everytime buddies anywhere share a knuckle-clasping handshake or slap their palms in agreement, they're demonstrating brothercool assimilation.

We think cool emanates from a man's innermost soul, but it has strong physical and sensual components. Yet it's never just about the physical. It's about control--over something, whether its the basketball court, a musical instrument or just your wardrobe. Cool is so individual that one man's cool won't work for othe men in other times.

Cool is learned. Cool is being at the cutting edge, whether it's politically, musically or artistically." Slavery, Jim Crow and ongoing institutional racism in American society did not allow them to be men in the traditional sense. Style became where black men could express their masculinity. Sometimes cool is all that we have. Once cool wasn't about violence, it was about being dapper. Cool is coolest when it's a facet of --not the purpose of--a man's existence. Muhammad Ali was a global icon who understood black men's struggle but whose rage never doused his joy.
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