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We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity

“We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity” is a collection of ten essays depicting the marginalization of black males by white culture. In the book, bell hooks points out the problems caused by the marginalization of black men and provides solutions as well as cultural criticism for these issues. The veteran pundit’s message resonates with that of Gwendolen Brooks getting the title ‘We Real Cool’ from the opening line in the 1960 poem “The Pool Players: Seven at the Golden Shovel.”

hooks narrates her worries about the black men in her life. In the preface, hooks addresses black masculinity, its perception, as well as stereotypes. She talks about how black males are compelled to repress themselves in white America. She talks about the negative effects of the development of racist and sexist attitudes in American culture and how they’ve contributed to the criminalization and dehumanization of black males. According to hooks, black males are taught violence and aggression as the key to survival.

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Bell hooks is known for attacks on sexism and racism in her works, something that she does exceptionally well in this book. “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity” takes a deeper look at the masculinity of black males in the United States. Hooks argues that black males are in a constant state of a masculinity crisis in the prison that is patriarchal imperialism. In the book, hooks talks about how hip-hop music is a reflection of a capitalist, white supremacist, and imperialist patriarchy.

According to the book, the patriarchal notions of manhood equates financial success to masculine ideal in the face of economic barriers that black males face. As a result, black males turn to hip-hop, sports, and crime. The gang and guns side of hip-hop music and culture is as a result of the miseducation of black men, i.e. how they are taught that violence and aggression are key to survival. hooks is of the opinion that black males have become wary of the simple goodness of being loved.

Bell hooks addresses different problems facing the black male and presents possible solutions in different chapters of the book. In the opening of the book, bell hooks starts by critiquing Ellis Cose’s take on being a black man in America in the book “The Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America.” She says that in his book, Cose has limited himself by failing to discuss contemporary political issues, steering clear of W. E. B. DuBois and Malcolm X’s takes on civil rights, and not providing enough ways to subvert racial stereotypes and social issues.

In the rest of the chapters, bell hooks goes ahead to talk about African masculinity way before the Atlantic slave trade. She argues that black men held patriarchal attitudes towards women but also points out that some of them, including Martin Delaney and Frank Douglass, supported the equality of sexes. “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity” is largely about the recollections about growing up as a black person in America. It’s a take on black cultural issues from a feminist perspective.

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