Overall, I read Fanon’s book Black Skin, White Masks with an open mind. I believe the main point of his book is “to liberate the black man from the arsenal of complexes that germinated in the colonial situation. (p14)” I also believe that total liberation can only be achieved if we work at changing the prejudices and myths regarding being “Black” harbored in the collective unconscious of our society. One of the ways these myths and prejudices are propagated is through mainstream media.
Really, what I wanted to do is contrast today’s mainstream (US) black consciousness propagated by television shows, music and advertisement to Frantz Fanon’s notion of black consciousness. Frantz Fanon elegantly writes “black consciousness claims to be an absolute density, full of itself, a stage pre-existent to any opening, to any abolition of self by desire. […] Black consciousness is immanent in itself. I am not a potentiality of something; I am fully what I am.” Today, the media tends to propagate the image that being “Black” is to listen to a certain type of music, wear a certain style of clothes, talk a certain way, etc. and when you don’t you are a sellout or trying to be “White”. This type of association is often made by youth but I’ve seen examples of this type of behavior in adults as well.
Then there is often a recurrent theme in “Black” comedy aiming at getting back at the “White” man, which Fanon nicely speaks against in the excerpt below. These projections advocate unhealthy behavior if not consciously then subconsciously.
Here is but one example that I was reminded of when I read this text.
The Time Hater by Dave Chappelle
Fanon speaks against this in the following passage:
“It is not the black world that governs my behavior. My black skin is not a repository for specific values.
I have not the right as a man of color to research why my race is superior or inferior to another.
I have not the right as a man of color to wish for a guilt complex to crystallize in the white man regarding the past of my race.
I have neither the right nor the duty to demand reparation for my subjugated ancestors.
I am not a prisoner of History. I must not look for the meaning of my destiny in that direction.
And it is by going beyond the historical and instrumental given that I initiate my cycle of freedom.
The misfortune of the man of color is having been enslaved.
The misfortune and inhumanity of the white man are having killed man somewhere.
And still today they are organizing this dehumanization rationally. But I, a man of color, insofar as I have the possibility of existing absolutely, have not the right to confine myself in a world of retroactive reparations.
May man never be instrumentalized. May the subjugation of man by man− that is to say, of me by another − cease.” (p202-206)
Needless to say I found his work quite inspiring and different from what I had read on the past evoking Black consciousness.