The Side Effects of Being the Gatekeepers of Cool

In films and television shows, we have seen black people being put into awkward situations in which they are in a room full of white people who are commanding the minorities to do "black things." In the movie Sorry to Bother You there is a scene where the main character, Cash, played by Lakeith Stanfield, uncomfortably maneuvers his way through a party full of white people. Cash is sitting in a circle of white people when they ask him to tell his "hood stories.” Cash finds himself in a predicament because these are not things he is familiar with, but he does not want his "black card" revoked. Ultimately, he has to put his individuality aside and please his white counterparts by performing actions that they have decided all black people should simply know how to do. This incident and these types of expectations are some of the consequences we face when society determines that blackness and black people, in general, are the gatekeepers of cool.


Being the gatekeepers of cool creates the expectation that every black person should be familiar with the latest dance and the latest rap song. When an individual of African descent is not familiar with these things their blackness is put into question. Our white counterparts look to us when they are unfamiliar with a concept that they feel all black people should be familiar with. When we do not identify with these concepts or trends, they begin to scratch their heads in confusion. This ultimately creates a single definition of blackness by assuming that there is one type of black person. This concept dismisses the communities of black people who do not relate to or enjoy the “black” stereotypical lifestyle that society has created. The idea that if an individual talks "black" or they are familiar with black culture, they can then be considered blacker than an individual who is actually of African descent. This is rooted in the fact that society has associated blackness with what it means to be cool. The whole idea that my blackness can somehow be revoked emphasizes the idea that society and sometimes other blacks fail to acknowledge the fluidity of black people. As a black community, we tend to pick and choose what aspects of blackness we want to accept.


Aside from creating a single definition of blackness, society has the tendency to dismiss the cultures of black people and deem it as unacceptable until it is done by a white person. Black men and women have worn various styles of cornrows for centuries and have always been criticized for their choice of hairstyle. But when a blonde, blue-eyed actress decides to sport hers, it is something new and intriguing and suddenly these braids are categorized as Bo Derek braids. For years black women have been criticized for having voluptuous and curvy bodies, but when individuals such as Kim Kardashian decide to imitate black women it is classified as sexy. While it may seem like a privilege to be the gatekeepers of cool, it ultimately puts pressure on blacks to dismiss their individuality and it gives individuals who are not a part of our community the power to decide what being black is and what it should be. When in fact this is not a topic of discussion, you are either black or you are not. Being black is not a personality trait and it is not something you get to decide if you have or not.