Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks
“The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”― (Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks)
Its time for our first Book review of the year, and once again, the archives come to the rescue as we revisit Frantz Fanon’s analysis of Racism as a pathological relationship of Co-dependency between Racist and Victim.
This is one of the most profound insights that made Black Skin White Masks which is my favourite book.
Instead of focusing purely on the negative effect of Racism on its victims, in Black Skin White Masks Fanon also went as far as analysing its negative Psychological effect on the perpetrator as well. In doing this he observed that it is equally neurotic and psychologically dysfunctional for a Black person to consider themselves ‘inferior’ as it is for a White person to consider themselves ‘superior’.
Racism is thus in effect sustained by the dysfunctional Psychological transaction-dynamic between Perpetrator and Victim. However, in reality both suffer from a form of Psychological neurosis or delusion since it is a distortion for either one to regard himself as either ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’.
‘Superiority’ and ‘Inferiority’ of either are thus not objective facts, but mere perceptions of mind.
An understanding of Racism as a form of Pathology is both significant and helpful.
It explains the need to look for external validation of a non-existent ‘superiority’ through the systematic destruction of Black self-esteem using Racist propaganda. This assault continues to occur through the destruction and denigration of African Cultural values, Religion and Language, a process that began in earnest with Colonialism and continues in various shapes and forms today.
The appropriation and integration of elements Ancient Egyptian culture in the world’s mainstream culture today also remains largely unacknowledged. Egypt provided the conceptual framework and crucible within which the ideas of Civilization were crystallized and developed, and even the so-called ‘alternative’ Mystery Sects like Alchemy have their roots in the Hermetics of Ancient Egypt as contained in the Emerald Tablets Of Thoth.
Racism is therefore not different from any other disorder of the mind like Schizophrenia. Regrettably but not surprisingly, Racism has served as the driving force behind a persistent program to feed the pathological reward mechanism that provides the sweet Psychological Elixir of ‘superiority’ to the Racist.
Wearing The Mask
In ending, I only ask that the following words by Steve Biko may assist in helping you understand the importance of rediscovering the true self:
“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.- (I Write What I Like, 1978).
In stating the above, it is also important to appreciate that Fanon’s arguments apply with equal force to Blacks who consider themselves ‘superior’ to others…Ultimately, our self-esteem should not be dependent on the perceived inferiority of others.
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