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we real cool

In the preface to We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (2004), bell hooks notes that “there is not even a small body of anti-patriarchal literature speaking directly to black males about what they can do to educate themselves for critical consciousness, guiding them on the path of liberation.” hooks writes the book, then, “as a black woman who cares about the plight of black men. I feel I can no longer wait for brothers to take the lead and spread the word. I have spent ten years waiting. And in those years the suffering of black men has intensified. Writing this book I hope to add my voice to the small chorus of voices speaking out on behalf of black male liberation.”

I read the book, not because I’m a black man, but to think about my African-American male students and how to help them succeed in my classes; I knew hooks would provide incisive cultural observation and a hopeful, loving message. I also read because I could, in the future, have a bi-racial child who would be considered by many to be black. I feel the need to prepare. I wanted to think about it with something beyond my own brain and the influence of those around me.

When I expressed these sentiments to my old friend, John, a parent, he said that he couldn’t help me think about having bi-racial children, but nevertheless he thought the most important thing a parent can do for a child is be present for him or her. He said that that the complications I was considering might be good to be aware of, but that ultimately the most important thing is to love your children and show them that you do. hooks says pretty much the same thing. The book is pretty critical of black men and points to better parenting as part of the solution. I can be a part of that solution in that I can hold high expectations for my children and give them the support to achieve them. I can love them and demonstrate that love consistently. Hopefully, I can also model what it means to be a man in a way that does not perpetuate all of the racist, patriarchal injustice against which hooks rails.

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