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In his essay ‘West Indians and Africans’

(African) Fanon claims that Césaire was the first to show him that ‘it is
fine and good to be a Negro’ (African: 21)

black consciousness

Fanon’s critique of
negritude (as we shall see in a later chapter) targeted its:
_ essentialism, rejecting an idea of ‘the’ African culture, as if it was
pure and monolithic;
_ temporality, rejecting any idea of the African past, as if there is any
pre-colonial pure African past. 30

First, he did not want to be tied down to an African or black past

alone: he wanted to ‘recapture the whole past of the world’ (Wretched: 176).
With this he rejects one of negritude’s central assumptions – that
decolonization must be accompanied by a retrieval of the African
past. The African, Fanon argues, must refuse to be ‘sealed away’ in
the ‘Tower of the Past’ (a phrase he takes from Césaire; Black
Skin: 176). 30-31

Fanon rejects cesaire’s essentialism

What emerges in Fanon’s engagement with Césaire is his (Fanon’s)

emphasis on the respect for difference – among Africans themselves. 31

(existential) emphasis on radical freedom, taken, I suggest, from
Sartre, is what makes him depart from negritude and Césaire. There
is no essential blackness, just as there is no essential whiteness – ‘the
Negro is not. Any more than the white man’, writes Fanon (180).34

Fanon’s humanism is not the western humanism inherited from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment –
which was complicit with colonialism. Neither does it encourage the essentialisms of negritude (Haddour
2005: 300). ‘I find myself suddenly in the world and I recognize that I have one right alone: That of
demanding human behavior from the other’, writes Fanon (Black Skin: 179). 35

The sense of self-hood, often called ‘subjectivity’, cannot be entirely dependent upon one-self. Individuals
develop a sense of self only in relation with other selves, other individuals in society. I am I because I am not
you, in my difference from you. So in order to have a sense of ‘I’ it needs a ‘you’.
You have to recognize me, acknowledge me as different, therein lies my sense of self. In other words,
subjectivity, as Fanon proposes following
Sartre, and the existentialists discover, is intersubjectivity. What Fanon’s
existential humanism does is to cultivate an (perhaps utopian) ideal of
a universalism based on difference, of mutual recognition and the
decolonization of both the colonizer and the colonized. 36 – 37

freud believes the root of trauma is in individual’ syche an dfamily, fanon disagrees.

But in the case of the African

and the colonized, psychiatric disorders and neuroses are never solely
individual in origin. These are socially induced, by the conditions of
oppression and alienation, which is colonialism. 39

Indeed, as Derek Hook observes, Fanon’s psychology links ‘the domain

of psychological action to a world of concrete and material effects’
(Hook 2005: 482). 40

As long as the black man is among his own, he will have no

occasion, except in minor internal confl icts, to experience his
being through others. B W 82

Fanon begins with the idea that the black man is only the other (with
the ‘o’ in lower case to distinguish it from the Other) to the white man.
This condition where the Self is denied selfhood reduces the black man
to an object rather than a human being (Black Skin: 82). 43

the collective unconscious of the white is negative towards black and consider them with savagery , rape etc.
passage to india
‘Whoever says rape says Negro’, writes
Fanon (Black Skin: 127, emphasis in original).43

The black is excluded from

the very category of the human. He is less-than-human, an object.
Even his labour does not fetch him (the slave) recognition. Due to this
craving for recognition, to escape the condition of being only a negative
cipher or object, the black man is forced to absorb features of the
white master. 44

Colonial mmicry : He has to constantly mime the colonizer. The colonized hopes to be
like, and therefore liked by, the colonizer. It is only in mimicry that the
colonized reinforces his status as colonized: perpetually condemned to
just mimic. Thus the black aims to speak a different linguistic register,
claims to be ‘brown’ rather than ‘black’, Martinican rather than African.
Fanon says he is ‘astonished’ to hear blacks trying to use a different
register, what he calls ‘putting on the white world’ (Black Skin: 23).
The black man, argues Fanon, wants to ‘turnWhite or disappear’ (xxxiii).
In other words, he seeks to deracinate himself, lose his colour, his
language and his very identity, by mimicking the white ‘masters’. Let
us take a couple of literary examples where we can see this theme of
colonial mimicry in operation. 45

_ The black man loses all sense of the self because he is never
acknowledged by the colonial master.
_ In order to acquire this acknowledgment, the colonized starts
wearing the white master’s masks. 45

This wearing of masks in a quest for acknowledgement does not

contribute to the acquisition of identity. It results, Fanon suggests, in
neurosis, a schizophrenic condition of being split between black and
white, and an inferiority complex born out of a conviction that his
own culture is worthless and that the only culture worth possessing is
that of the white man’s. 46

He is expected to (by the white man) but is afraid of

behaving ‘like a nigger’, as Fanon puts it (Black Skin: 86). This is the
crisis of his social reality, his very existence, that the black man faces
everyday. And because he feels he cannot ever be anything other than a
black man, he begins to suffer a sense of worthlessness, inferiority and eventually slides into neurosis 47
What? While I was forgetting, forgiving, and wanting only to
love, my message was flung back in my face like a slap. The white
world, the only honorable one, barred me from all participation. A
man was expected to behave like a man. I was expected to behave
like a black man—or at least like a nigger. I shouted a greeting to
the world and the world slashed away my joy. I was told to stay
within bounds, to go back where I belonged.

In order to alleviate this sense of shame, as we have already noted,

the black man puts on a white mask. 49

During this process of assimilating new cultural messages that

invoke older ones, of course, the black man also imbibes and assimilates
the prejudices and ideological doctrines embedded in these stories.
Since he has already encountered the myth of the evil black man, these
stories reinforce within him the myth of white superiority in a ‘crystallization’
of an attitude and a ‘way of thinking and seeing’ (114).
Frustrated and confused, he seeks modes of resolving the identity
crisis. The black boy also adopts these same Eurocentric, racist and 49

Mannono states blacks are by nature dominated and white dominating. The minority feels threatened, Fanon
says these roles are inspired by economic and social conditions of the society. 51-52

Thus Fanon locates the violent personality, the mental illness and the
possible cure within the colonial system the medical, psychiatric and epistemological violence of
the colonial regime leaves very little of the colonized’s life untouched. 55