Volume 28, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022
Is Cool a Virtue?
This paper argues that cool is a virtue in a specific context: that of black Americans living under a specific modality of white supremacy. But cool is not merely a coping mechanism. A historical analysis of the term shows that cool is being unimpressed by, and calm in the face of, white supremacy. This is made manifest in a style, the “cool pose,” the sophistication of which is captured in the jazz of Lester Young and Miles Davis. Thus, cool is both a virtue of character and a feature of black American aesthetics. But as a cultural phenomenon, it has been appropriated by white American culture.