Frantz Fanon Black Skin White Masks (1952)
Chapter 1 “The Negro and Language”
Fanon in this chapter states that the Black man has two dimensions, one with his fellow “negroes”, and the other with the white man. The black man interacts with both of these differently, a selfdivision which is a direct result of colonialist subjugation “is beyond question” (17). The problem in this chapter which fanon addresses is that “The Negro of the Antilles will be proportionately whither –that is he will come closer to being a real human being- in direct ratio to his mastery of the French language”. For Fanon a man who has language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language. Simply put, mastery of language affords remarkable power. Once a group of people are
colonized they are forced to find themselves face to face with the civilizing nation’s language, at the cost of death of the colonized people’s own language. With each renouncement of his blackness, the Negro becomes whiter and elevated above his “jungle” (18) status, as he adopts the culture of the “mother country” (18). Fanon gives an example of the black man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed, “To express it in generic terms, his phenotype undergoes a definitive, an absolute mutation” (19). Fanon also claims that even before the Negro begins living abroad, the change begins in preparation for this trip. Negroes that return after the journey, return “full of themselves”, believing they have completed a cycle and gained something they believed they were lacking. His mannerisms change to reflect this supposed metamorphosis; instead of “the wide sweep of the arm”. Even the children of Martinique are taught to avoid creole and dialect, and to embrace French. Creole despite being the authentic language of the people becomes a “symbol of
disgrace” if spoken or used. One must take “great pains” in the language he speaks, due to the fear of being judged for using it. Fanon believes that within any group of Negroes in the Antilles, the one who has “mastered” the language is inordinately feared. Because of the stereotypes and negative beliefs of the Negro and his speech, such as the “R-eating man from Martinique”, he will try all that is deemed necessary to master “diction”. To the Negro on his island, the allure and appeal of the European culture, is like a rush of pure air as the world opens up to him. When the black man arrives in France it is as if he has journeyed to the mecca, a tabernacle of sorts. Due to this, he changes, not only because “it is from France that he received his knowledge of Montesqieu, Rosseau and Volitaire” but also because it gave him put simply, everything. In accepting one culture, the black man alienates another and upon his return it is evident in his speech, “answering in French and often no longer understanding creole”. Due to this change the “newcomer” as he or she is called, becomes critical of his compatriots. This acceptance of another language than the one they (the Negroes of the Antilles) were born into, is evidence of dislocation and separation, but most of all, it is evidence of an inferiority complex.
Chapter 5 “The Fact of Blackness”
Fanon in his creating “The Fact of Blackness” uses the example of his own life and the struggles he endured, such the psychologically alienating effects of colonialism and racism. He then uses them to illustrate the difficulties the Negro in particular face in his attempt to develop affirming, positive identities (against the stereotypes) in the face of white supremacy. In this racist society, Fanon argues, black people “experience [their] being through others” (109) for example a black man comes
to terms with who he is or the prejudices others use to discern who he is by the negative ways in which white people react to the presence of him as black person. In this society it is demanded that the black man objectifies himself;...
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