On Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks

As I was reading Fanon’s article, what instantly sprang to mind was Hegel’s ‘master-slave’ dialectics. The black man has internalized what Chateerjee terms as the ‘rule of colonial difference’ and understands his own position in relation to white man and his authority and superiority. I agree with what Fanon has pointed out about the nature of language– the fact that in taking on a language, one is necessarily interpellated within a certain symbolic order, the community and even its culture, no matter how foreign a tongue it may be. However, I think Fanon posits more than one possibilities when it comes to the consequence of a Black man who attempts to assimilate into the French culture and language. He did recognize that acquiring the French tongue can ‘open doors’ for the native if he is able to use it as a tool. Knowing the language and using it to his advantages certainly allow him to be aware of his own conditions. What dejects Fanon perhaps, is the idea of a Black man who renounces his own origins, tongue and culture in order to take on the identity and culture of the French, wishing to be associated with the assumed qualities that come with the ‘whiteness’. This is a sign of self-denial, indicating that the Black man acknowledges at heart, that being civilized and being cultured means being (acting) like a white man.

One thought on “On Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks

  1. This is an excellent reading, Peiyi. It is precisely the man who uses the language unaware of the *conditions* that the language brings with it that depresses Fanon. Incidentally, your thoughts of Hegel are also very apropos. Fanon is very well known for his reading of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic (the last chapter of Black Skin, White Masks: “The Negro and Recognition). The Wretched of the Earth (where “On Violence” comes from) is also heavily based on the idea of the Hegelian dialectic.