Wednesday night in the Smith Center Theater, Black Action Society, Gender Studies Program, Office for Inclusive Excellence, Frederick Douglass Institute and Men of Distinction put on a panel discussion regarding how African-American men are portrayed in society and expected to behave. Society has constructed a box for them to be in, which has been coined the ‘cool pose.’
This front of having no feelings has had a historical background. It has been described as a guard to the outside world.
The phrase was coined by Richard Majors and Janet Mancine Billson, authors of cool pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America, as “a ritualized form of masculinity that entails behaviors, scripts, physical posturing, impression management and carefully crafted performances that deliver a single, critical message: pride, strength and control.”
The term has been around since the time of slavery. Slaves that were seen as too weak or too feminine were beaten, raped and killed, and therefore adapted by putting up a front of being muscular, stone-faced and having no emotions.
“Mainstream media like to portray us in one of three ways: thugs, entertainers or dorky and nerdy. White people saw black people as beastly and animalistic so we said ‘Fine, we’ll be beastly and animalistic,’” said speaker and SRU student LaMorie Marsh.
The event brought up many problems that are still present today such as lack of authentic relationships due to the popularization of disrespecting women, high incarceration rate and low academic achievement.
“We as a society see the ‘cool pose’ as the norm. It becomes expected of us which leads to these problems,” Marsh said.
In the US alone, 745,000 black males are incarcerated. The death of Michael Brown can also be seen as a result of these effects.
Everyday effects of negative portrayal of black men occur every day. Marsh explained how he was once simply walking to the ARC with headphones in, and had the cops called on him for suspicious behavior.
The ‘cool pose’ is reinforced in TV shows as well, such as “The Jeffersons”, “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son.”
The panel was to share stories of how the media has affected SRU students, and to educate others to keep an open mind and forget labels of people we may have learned from the media.
“I actually think for white people we have all sorts of benefits regarding the ‘cool pose.’ I think getting out of the ‘cool pose’ is really complicated due to systemic racism,” Cindy LaCom, director of the Gender Studies Program said.
Terrell Johnson explained how he spent time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit due to racism.
“I woke up one morning and went to my mom’s to see there was a warrant for my arrest for homicide. I was 19 years old,” Johnson said. Due to a lack of education and information, Johnson was unfairly accused and sent to jail for 18 years before he was discovered to be not guilty.
“As a black man in this country, sometimes you just have to put your head down and it’s the saddest feeling in the world,” Johnson said.
“Every morning when I wake up I pray with my wife because I don’t know what will happen when I leave the house. I think like that every day,” Michael White, SRU technology application coordinator said.
“We hope that this shed light on the ‘cool pose’ and you continue these conversations,” Johnson said.