Can I start this essay by asking a rhetorical question? Have you heard of black cool? It used to be something ineffable but indisputable. Certain African-American cultural figures — in music, in movies, in sports — rose above what was manifestly a divided, unjust society and in the process managed to seem singularly unruffled. They kept themselves together by holding themselves slightly apart, maintaining an air of inscrutability, of not quite being known. They were cool.