I love this “cool” controversy. Here’s a commenter — David Varet — on Ian’s post below:
I know this is going to blow your mind, but the same word can have different meanings/interpretations depending upon who uses it and how it’s used.
No one is claiming that the word, in and of itself, is racist in all usages. We are just claiming that the way it is used derogatoraly in certain scenarios is meant to appeal to racist inclinations.
Besides, if the word had only one interpretation, it wouldn’t exactly be “code”
As several commenters note, this boils down to saying that it’s only when Republicans use “cool” against Obama that it’s racist. Yes, of course, you could come up with a racist way of using “cool.” Just replace the term “cool people” for any ugly or silly racist charge against blacks. “Oh, of course Obama loves basketball, that’s the sport of ‘cool people’ if you know what I mean.” Nod, nod, wink, wink.
But the simple fact, as far as I know, no one is using Team Obama’s long and studied cultivation of his (allegedly) cool persona that way (for what it’s worth, here’s David Axelrod answering a question about “how to make Obama cool again”). For roughly two years — call it late 2007 to late 2009 — the White House, Hollywood, the mainstream press corps, were all determined to paint Obama as cool. And Obama loved it and encouraged it.
Saying complaints about Obama’s cultivated coolness are racist is simply a way to revive the charge that disliking Obama or his policies is racist. The funny part is that the only people conspicuously obsessed with Obama’s race are the people who trot out this nonsense. The logic sometimes seems to be, “we love that Obama is black, therefore people who don’t like Obama must not like him because he’s black.” Maybe we just don’t care and we’re focusing on other things? I have no doubt there are people who don’t like Obama because he’s black. But I’ve never personally met such a person (or at least they’ve never said as much to me). Meanwhile, I’ve met lots and lots of people who’d still dislike the Affordable Care Act if Hillary Clinton or John Edwards proposed it.
The charge that Obama spent too much time cultivating his cool image while the economy soured is simply not the same thing as saying he spent too much time being black while the economy soured. If that’s what you’re hearing when someone offers the complaint, that’s your hang-up.