We Real Cool : Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are times when one enters into a text blindly knowing not what to expect. One sets no expectations that their present opinions will be confirmed or refuted. They simply are on a journey and reaching out for other input about the direction of their walk. I came to locate this text at while browsing the Chicago Public Library and am delighted that I chose to add it to my present reading list. She calls it “radical black masculinity” though by the time you reach the end of the text you realize that she is seeking a certain return of a black masculinity that we once held which is now lost to many of us.
Upon reading such chapters as “Gangsta Culture” and “Schooling Black Males”, I saw glimmers and glimpses of my formative years pass by. I recall one instance where I was in the car with my mother and I decided to play the tape in my Walkman which was by a group called the Luniz and an album titled “Operation Stackola”. In the particular song I played, “Put The Lead On Ya”, a rapper named Dru Down utters the words “and if you’re a woman / don’t think i still won’t put the lead on ya / bitchhhh”. My mother without hesitation snatched the tape out of the deck and tossed it from the car window. Why did I think this sort of material was acceptable to play either for my mother’s ears or my own? Why was I obsessed with emulating the sexual lothario and street combativeness that I saw emanating from my brother’s daily existence? How did I come from the place where I previously lived to the ground where I now stand? I credit the women.
Whether it was my mother snatching that tape from the car and clearly showing me that certain language and actions were entirely unacceptable or my daughter now who cautions me to both censor myself until the practice becomes a lifestyle and also to stop trying to shield her in ways that might make her consider patriarchy and paternalism the manner all men should exhibit in her future. There are many other women in between who have shown me how “quaint” some of my assumptions were and helped to groom and grow me forward. For their presence I am forever grateful.
After my daughter was born, I was known to say that it was probably a good thing that I didn’t have a son because I would not know how to teach him how to be a man as I perceived the world to see them. I don’t play the usual sports or watch them. I enjoy the kitchen and cooking and poetry. Had I a son, he might suffer a terrible time during his schooling years subscribing to some the ways I live at present, but I am wholly aware of what a fool’s errand that statement was now. There are many ways to be cool as hooks’ offers to us now and they don’t have to be rooted in the dying patriarchy of the past, but a brilliant, bold, and creative manhood of the future. One that subscribes to the notion that men mustn’t always be stoic, they can be open and vulnerable and self aware. They can say the things amongst friends that others have chosen not to say because of masculine groupthink and they can find more innovative ways to be cool that don’t involve sexual exploits, physical combat and domination, or monetary gain. We too cool to be caged by white supremacy. In other words, we off that.