Tuesday, July 11, 2006



The Mask: (Part V).
“To us, the man who adores the Negro is as “sick” as the man who abominates him.”

This is one of the provocative opening views of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. It places the “Negro” as an object of love and an object of hate. The second statement, that the racist is “sick”, seems correct and apparent to anyone with humanity. Not so clear, however, is why the first statement is racist. Throughout Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon explains this initially puzzling statement. A condensed explanation goes like this. When looking at a black male, the white male sees the Other. This creates fear within the white male and this fear is projected as hate. But the white male also experiences fascination. Fear and fascination produce a “sick” desire, an adoration centred on racist assumptions about the black male body. As Fanon puts it, simply and explicitly: the “Negro…is a penis”. The naked black male body is invested with sexual worship, which is then stripped from him to reveal what he truly is (in the white man’s eyes): natural, primitive, aggressive, raw and ultra-sexual. Black skin becomes a fetish. The black man’s face wears the white mask that the white man places there.

The black man’s response to this is to assume the superficial needs of white society. The persona he wears allows acceptance, but not integration (because this can only begin at a level deeper than the mask). Fanon detests this psychological and social enslavement:

“…the black man who wants to turn his race white is as miserable as he who preaches hatred for the whites.”

And here Fanon hits another raw-nerve. Those who teach hatred for the whites are “miserable” because the hatred that consumes them reflects self-hatred and anxiety. Colour v Colourless ranting only locks man in a binary cell. Rather than preaching hatred against hatred, man must reach beneath the mask to learn self-love.

Fanon’s speculations seem highly important at a time when White Skin, Black Masks seems to influence youth more and more. But this reversal—where all things black are cool—does not have the deep dynamic of its opposite. The commodification of the black body (male and female), described by Holt in The Problem of Race in the 21st Century as the most dangerous brand of new racisms, invites white youth to buy into the persona, merely demands that they accept what a capitalistic society wants to sell them, so as it can ultimately make them sell themselves.

6 comments:

My Talking Beginnings said...

An utterly fascinating piece eshuneutics, a good one as usual! Race issues are a tricky topic of discourse and i tend to stay away from them however in this instance i will agree completely with fanon (although i think he was just as radical and his environment contributed to his ideology).
The black man is a sexual object and i wonder about inter-raccial relationships...do they work? hmm...

eshuneutics said...

I am glad that you didn't stay away from this, pleased you enjoyed it and responded. Thanks. Your last question is interesting in that Fanon did marry a white woman...his ideological ideas did not become a personal warning! The inter-racial question is a mined field/mind field. Do they work? I can only speak from my experience: they need a lot of working through.
I admire Fanon because he wrote what no one wanted to hear, but he also denied what he knew to be there. For example, he denied black homosexuality (except as a function of the white mask), but there is a homoerotic desire running through his work. And having written of the twisted desire of the inter-racial he justified his marriage to a white woman so casually along the lines of you can never predict who you want to love. But do psychologists and therapists always follow what they know. As you wrote in your last post...Do we always follow our own advice?

My Talking Beginnings said...

I agree completely. perhaps another aspect of thought would be how it is percieved that a certain type of black person gets involved with a certain type of white person...rubbishing fanon's thought of chance and love!!

Unsane said...

Western metaphysics underlies these dynamics described by Fanon. Western metaphysics come from the way we have been condioned to see others on the basis of commodity relations. It continues to pervade our interrelations, even despite the alleviation of colour lines. Why was the black person perceived as more sexual than whites? Because he or she served that role, within the broader community, of alleviating the sexual tensions within the white community in such a way that these tensions did not destroy the existing property relations.

And all of Fanon's perspicacity cannot change the psychological dynamics created by historically inherited property relations, either. They are there; they are real. It is why women are treated as "just women", and why blacks are rarely found within positions of power.

eshuneutics said...

I was just coming to my email box as your comment arrived. I mean this well: your comments are unmistakably you. You come at my post from another angle and I appreciate wholly what you say. As I began to write, I troubled over "the man", I had to write on Fanon's terms and wanted to insert "and woman". You connect my two thoughts together and rightfully point out the female view. (And do this better than Fanon). Thanks.

eshuneutics said...

MTB, last night I didn't understand the direction of your comment. This morning, I did. Sometimes, I don't see the wood for the trees. Yes, Fanon was saying nothing more than "I fell in love" about his relationship. I loved the cheeky riposte by Frederick Douglass whose second marriage was to a white woman. People did not like him crossing the colour line.
Neither "whites" nor "blacks". When quizzed, he just said that he had married a black woman the first time, now he felt like a change. As if what he had done was the most natural thing in the world. I know you are not a great believer in "falling in love"...though that earlier post of yours could have been a mask! So, the inter-racial attraction must be something more rational. Are there types of people or circumstances that "make" the crossing desirable? Probably. So called "jungle fever" has a lot to do with what Fanon observed and the sexualization of the black male body. I see more young mixed race couples in my part of the inner-city that any other. Why? And so much open aggression between them. Why? A very powerful racist (gender) dynamic is at work, though they do not perceive it. Black males, desiring power, (are invited to) trade on their sexuality. And power is mistaken for empowerment. There is no empowerment, however, because how they operate is a function of the white mask. They are only playing the cards that white patriarchy gave them. Black male power. White female submission to sexual power. It ought to be a dream made in heaven. Probably it is in patriarchy's head.