Black Skin, White Masks – the legacy of Frantz Fanon

Marking the abolition of slavery, I would like to present you with an extract from Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century:

I am talking of millions of men who have been skilfully injected with fear, inferiority complexes, trepidation, servility, despair, abasement. – Amié Césaire, Discours sur le Colonialisme

The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon… or too late.
I do not come with timeless truths.
My consciousness is not illuminated with ultimate radiances.
Nevertheless, in complete composure, I think it would be good if certain things were said.
These things I am going to say, not shout. For it is a long time since shouting has gone out of my life.
So very long…

What does the black man want?
At the risk of arousing the resentment of my colored brothers, I will say that the black is not a man. There is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinarily sterile and arid region, an utterly naked declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born. In most cases, the black man lacks the advantage of being able to accomplish this descent into a real hell.

Man is not merely a possibility of recapture or of negation. If it is true that consciousness is a process of transcendence, we have to see too that this transcendence is haunted by the problems of love and understanding. Man is a “yes” that vibrates to cosmic harmonies. Uprooted, pursued, baffled, doomed to watch the dissolution of the truths that he has worked out for himself one after another, he has to give up projecting onto the world an antinomy that coexists with him.

The black is a black man; that is, as a result of a series of aberrations of affect, he is rooted at the core of a universe from which he must be extricated.

The white man is sealed in his whiteness.
The black man in his blackness.

Man’s tragedy, Nietzsche said, is that he was once a child. None the less, we cannot afford to forget that, as Charles Odier has shown us, the neurotic’s fate remains in his own hands.

However painful it may be for me to accept this conclusion, I am obliged to state it: For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white.

 

Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925 and studied medicine in France, going onto psychiatry. His writings had far reaching influence from the civil rights to black consciousness’ movements.

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon is available here ISBN 0-8021-5084-5

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