Essays On Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon's book Black Skin White Masks held much relevance for Caribbean peoples,especially the Diasporean Negro struggling to come to terms with his own identity in  the post-wworld war 11 dispensation and the post colonial era that began in the  1960's.Indeed,even today,the work has some application for the Caribbean has found itself caught up in a conundrum of sorts.

Indeed,the nomenclature of this work might be viewed as a metaphor of the hybridization of black people in this Diaspora and of the contradictions and paradoxes that encounter their path.

If therefore this book engages us in  a  ''psychological and philosophical analysis of the state of being a Negro,'' then it would have achieved in part its purpose.

Written in Fanon's own inimitable and even amateurish style,it depicts the Antillean Negro as pusillanimous as he grapples with the gargantuan task of his own perceived  ''inferiority'' as he struggles to become as the white folk.

Fanon's effort further reveals many contemporaneous events/facts that would be of great interest to the modern Caribbean Negro or researcher looking back at that era.His Martiniquean heritage ,  his medical training in France and his Algerian sojourn during the Franco-Algerian war are revealed as experience in the pages of this book.Conversely,readers may wish to view this author as some kind of  infantterrible,a precocious young doctor/adventurer who is given to making disconcerting remarks about the Negro,his blackness and the general compartmentalization of the Antillean/West Indian society as the wars of tribal hegemony were waged in this landscape.

Probably at the end of his reading,the critic might be constrained to admit that as a consequence of this close examination of Fanon that he thinks or is convinced,that the book has left the Diasporean Negro enfranchised with his personal endowment of blackness or even negritude.Because the Francophone Caribbean is conterminous with the Anglophone component it is inherent upon the reader,to understand the relevance and even pertinence of many of Fanon's utterances.Of course,the reader must also bear in mind the many socio-cultural differences between the two societies and the political reality of the independence of the English-speaking Caribbean against the continual rule of France over the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe even up to the present.

This work,then,should be seen as the beginning of the lysis of black inferiority.My rationale for this position is that  the work represents an identification of the black inferiority among the Diasporean Negro and an attempted analysis of the phenomenon.The purview of the review,therefore,will be to analyse each chapter in chronological sequence in the first instance and then attempt an overview and subsequent conclusion.

A quotation from Aime Cesaire(of whom more will be written later on ) begins the Introduction.It is taken from Discours Sur Le Colonialisme:

           I am talking of millions of men who have been skilfully infected

           with fear,inferiority complexes,trepidation,servility,despair,abasement.

Fanon,all at once invokes Nietzsche,who had postulated that  ''man was once a child''(9).In this introduction,then,the author  ''proposes nothing short of the liberation of the man of colour from himself.''(8).Recognizing that  ''the black man wants to be white'' he begins to establish an approach towards analysis utilizing the psycho-pathological and the psycho-existential(11).He leaves this two-pronged attack for the last two chapters,however,where the argument is developed more fully.

The first chapter is captioned ''The Negro and Language'' and looks at the  ''colonialist subjugation '' of the Negro.Fanon seems to acquiesce to the dominant linguistic philosophy of his day when he boldly declares that  ''a man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language ''(14).Of course,this is just a theory,as many other factors come into play.If the theory held true independently,then consequently,the Negro would not be placed in the debilatory position of possessing an inferiority complex because he would possess the world of the white colonizer and share co-equal status.

The first chapter of only seventeen pages does not present the critic with an  eclaircisement of the Negro/language dichotomy,for the author,a self-confessed medical practioner,is evidently no trained person in the field of sociolinguistics and thus proffers only his layman's perspective.Probably,in his day,linguistics wasn't as detailed as it is in this modern dispensation with separate branches of sociolinguistics and creole linguistics available among others.

Even with these limitations credit should be given to Fanon for he recognises differences in language development for  ''there is the city and there is the country.There is the capital,there is the province''(14).

He is convinced that  ''the man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed.To express it in genetic terms his phenotype undergoes a definitive,an absolute mutation''(15).In my opinion,this is not extraordinary as it holds true even for the Anglophone Diasporean Negro who today lives in England or the United States of America.

Perhaps Fanon holds too much of a dim view of his beginnings for he seems to revel in invoking Aime Cesaire's dread description of Fort-de-France:

             That flat,sprawling city,stumbling over its own common sense,winded

             by its load of endlessly repeated crosses,pettish at its destiny,voiceless,

              thwarted in every direction,incapable of feeding on the juices of its soil,

              blocked,cut off,confined,divorced from fauna and flora(16).

If therefore,he and Cesaire attribute little eclat to the Antillean city then it should not be shocking that the man who is leaving for France begins to hear the magic of Paris,Marseille,Sorbonne and Pigalle even before he reaches the stocks of Martinique.

Fanon's own language(even though I am reading the translation0 seems to be quite condescending in its references to the Antillean Negro although he might be blind to the fact that he himself also is a product of the colonizer.It is this condescension which causes us to view the Diasporean Negro as dysgenic.This need not be so as in a broader outlook of things one sees and understands that even the colonizer was at one time subjugated and colonized.Granted that it takes a long time to recover from the shackles of bondage,yet Fanon is writing with his own sense of dysesthesia.

Chapter 2 deals with  ''The Woman of Colour and the White Man.''There is a physis here that has grown to almost mythological proportions.It has been represented numerous times in film and text.Since historical times and during slavery in the plantation system in the New World there has existed the sexual attraction between the two races,so much so that  physis has almost become normos.

Fanon handles this attraction from two main perspectives:''The Woman of Colour and the White Man and in the following chapter he deals with The Man of Colour and the White Woman.There isn't much lacrimation for the woman of colour.He bases his analysis,though,upon the writings of one Mayotte Capecia whose book became ''cut-rate merchandise,a sermon in praise of corruption.Mayotte possesses little self-esteem and all she knows is that the white man is her lord.She asks nothing,demands nothing except a bit of whiteness in her life(32).As if by jure divino the woman of colour voluntarily subjugates herself to her white master.There is a homotaxis here for this phenomenon also holds for the Anglophone Caribbean where the woman of colour behaved in a similar manner.

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