Précis 2: Frantz Fanon, Excerpts from Black Skin, White Masks
Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks is sociological study about the psychology of racism. Fanon focuses on his home country of France and its post-colonial black/white relations. With the application of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, Fanon is able to present a social commentary of the black man’s division of identity. Or rather, his constant struggle between white acceptance and black rejection. The text, originally pitched predominantly to black french citizens, is still very much applicable to today as it describes the inner struggles of a society colonized by the culture of a foreign entity.
Fanon is faced with the difficult task of bringing to light an unspoken truth of post-colonial France, “for the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white.”. Although Fanon uses the term “black man”. I feel that this is not exclusive to blacks, but to all people who have lived under a colonizer. For the colonized there is a blatant, but often left unspoken truth. That there is always a daily power struggle to maintain the ethnic culture from an invading foreign culture. This creates a difficult situation for the ethnic group, as the pursuit of individual prosperity usually leads to an alienation from the rest of the colonized. As the colonizers create a system under their own rules, the colonized are left to either adapt or become lost in the transition. For those who decide to create a “white mask” (the pursuit of prosperity through the system of the colonizer) inner division begins to form. Ironically, the more the colonized individual grows in the system, the more their ethnic brothers begin to reject them as one of their own. But no matter how much they grow under the new status quo, they will never come close to reaching the pinnacle they believe to be heading.
The “black man” (the colonized) will forever be below the “white man’ (the colonizer), as long as he is below him. For this reason Fanon writes his thesis to be,
“The black man wants to be white. The white man slaves to reach a human level. In the course of this essay, we shall observe the development of an effort to understand the black-white relation. The white man is sealed in his whiteness. The black in his blackness…. .”
Fanon understands that the colonizer is always in charge. And although the colonized may be suffering as a result of the colonized, do not think for a second that the colonized would not do the same to the colonizer. If the positions were reversed it would make no difference. As the white man is trapped in his “whiteness” (whiteness being his position of power), the black man will always be trapped in his “blackness” (blackness being his position of subjugation).