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"When women get together and talk about men, the news is almost always bad news," writes bell hooks. "If the topic gets specific and the focus is on black men, the news is even worse."
In this powerful new book, bell hooks arrests our attention from the first page. Her title--We Real Cool; her subject--the way in which both white society and weak black leaders are failing black men and youth. Her subject is taboo: "this is a culture that does not love black males:" "they are not loved by white men, white women, black women, girls or boys. And especially, black men do not love themselves. How could they? How could they be expected to love, surrounded by so much envy, desire, and hate?"
Veteran pundit hooks unpacks the explosive contents of Gwendolen Brooks's famous 1960 poem "The Pool Players: Seven at the Golden Shovel," taking her title from the opening of the poem. Like Brooks, hooks worries about the men in her life, black men experiencing crises of masculinity as prisoners (sometimes literally) of patriarchal imperialism. Hooks argues that black men have become chary of the simple goodness of being loved. From George Jackson's Soledad Brother to Stephen King's The Shawshank Redemption, hooks finds that black men are taught violence and aggression as the keys to survival, an ideology that is reified in the lucrative gangs-and-guns side of hip-hop music and culture. Mainstream culture inculcates fear of black men, rewarding them most when they act out the "Native Son" role of brutal psychopath to confirm that fear, la the intensive media coverage of the Nicole Brown Simpson murder. Malcolm X, moving away from black separatism toward a politics of global justice, was gunned down by "state-supported black-on-black violence." Hooks attacks the stereotype of the older black woman as powerful matriarch, fiercely independent of men. In reality, she says, "most black women have been more than willing to surrender control over their hard-earned resources to the men in their lives: father, brothers, lovers, and husbands." Hooks, a writer of extraordinary skill, pads out her insights with lengthy quotations from many sources, which thin but don't fully dilute her revolutionary message of love.