I posted the below quote as a comment over at A Conversation on Cool but it got deleted. Does the very act of thinking about the racial history and connotations of cool make white people uncomfortable?

Cool is all about trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. It’s about living on the cusp, on the periphery, diving for scraps. Essential to cool is being outside looking in. Others – Indians, immigrants, women, gays – have been “othered,” but until the past 15 percent of America’s history, niggas in real terms have been treated by the country’s majority as, at best, subhuman and, at worst, an abomination. So in the days when they were still literally on the plantation they devised a coping strategy called cool, an elusive mellowing strategy designed to master time and space. Cool, the basic reason blacks remain in the American cultural mix, is an industry of style that everyone in the world can use. It’s finding the essential soul while being essentially lost. It’s the nigga metaphor. And the nigga metaphor is the genius of America.

Donnell Alexander

Read the whole thing.

Related reading: Norman Mailer, “The White Negro” (1957)

2 responses to “Cool

  1. There is a time and a place for everything. My blog is not the place to start that conversation. It has nothing to do with “white people” anything. I don’t feel like reading shit like that.


  2. Thanks, Sean, for your comment. I agree, there is a time and place for everything. And what better time and place for what you call “that conversation” than a blog that calls itself “A Conversation on Cool,” and more specifically a post that asks people to chime in on what they think cool is? Or am I taking the title of your blog too literally?

    I’m a longtime fan of your blog work, but one can’t help but notice that the cool you celebrate and romanticize is, a handful of exceptions aside, mostly of the white variety. Which is fine. I was never trying to insinuate you or your readers were racist, just a little too comfortable. As Alexander argues in what is surely one of the definitive essays on cool, cool has a history, a history I thought you and your readers might be interested in engaging rather than sweeping under the rug.

    The quote I dropped was meant to be provocative, sure, but mostly so that people would read the whole essay I linked to. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. You don’t have to agree with all of it. God knows I don’t. But it is worth reading.

    I can’t help but feel like you didn’t though. Maybe because after reading, let’s say, a passage like “Are black people cooler than white people and, if so, why? The answer is, of course, yes. And if you, the reader, had to ask some stupid shit like that, you’re probably white,” I’m not sure how you could come back at me with a line like “there is a time and place for everything.” If your blog isn’t the time and place, what is?


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