Black Skin, White Masks (Franz Fanon)

 Photo by Leila Green   "The black man should no longer have to be faced with the dilemma 'whiten or perish.'"

Photo by Leila Green

"The black man should no longer have to be faced with the dilemma 'whiten or perish.'"

Martinique / 1952

I was surprised by this book - a bold manifesto about the psychological consequences of colonial rule on the black mind. My favorite part of of the book was Fanon's theory of Black people being "the childhood of the world." Here's what he says is the white perspective: "In a society such as ours, industrialized to the extreme, dominated by science, there is no longer room for your sensitivity...when we are tired of all that concrete, we will turn to you as our children, our naive, ingenuous, and spontaneous children. We will turn to you as the childhood of the world. You are so authentic in your life, so playful. Let is forget for a few moments our formal, polite civilization and bend down over those heads, those adorable faces. In a sense, you reconcile us with ourselves." This reminded me immediately of romanticizing the Black "soul" and even of Africa, plus of phenomena like voluntourism and missionaries in Africa. There's this childish quality they ascribe to us that is hard to articulate, but Fanon hit the nail right on the head. I think of the things they say: "they're poor, but they're still happy!" "they're so funny" "it's amazing that Black women are so confident (even though, even though)." It's this strange perspective that just reveals how divorced most white people actually are from themselves, and from humanity. As Fanon said: "The Blacks represent a kind of insurance for humanity in the eyes of the Whites. When the Whites feel they have become too mechanized, they turn to the Coloreds and request a little human sustenance." This reminds me of the strange abundance of gospel choirs at white award shows. LOL. But to say this in 1952, when this book was published, was very brave of Fanon. We have to really respect and admire him for laying the framework for so much subsequent theories surrounding negritude and black consciousness.

 

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