Showing posts with label Aimé Césaire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aimé Césaire. Show all posts

28 December 2021

Translation: Frantz Fanon, From Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks)

Colonial racism is no different than any other racism.

Antisemitism touches me deeply, I am moved, a frightful opposition weakens me, they do not give me the option of being a man. I cannot not join my brother’s fate in solidarity. Each of my acts engages the man in me. Each of my hesitations, each instance of my cowardice, manifests mankind. We still hear Aimé Césaire:

“When I turn on my radio, and I hear that in America black folk are being lynched, I say that they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead; when I turn on my radio and I learn that Jews are being insulted, held in contempt, sent to pogroms, I say they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead; and lastly, when I turn on my radio and I learn that, in Africa, forced labour has been institutionalized, I say that, truly, they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead.”

Yes, European civilization and its most qualified representatives are responsible for colonial racism; and we recall Césaire again:

“And so, one day, a formidable counter-shock wakes up the bourgeoisie; the gestapo is stirring, the prisons are full, torturers invent, refine and gather to talk around their instruments.” We are surprised, we are angry. We say: “How curious! But, it’s just Nazism, it will go away”. And we wait and hope; and we do not admit the truth to ourselves, that it’s barbaric, utmostly barbaric, so barbaric that it crowns, that it encompasses the barbaric in its daily life; that it’s Nazism, yes, but before being its victims, we were its accomplices; that we tolerated this Nazism before being subjected to it, we absolved it, we turned a blind eye, we legitimized it, because, until then, it only applied to non-Europeans; we cultivated this Nazism, we are responsible for it…


What [Octave] Mannoni has forgotten is that the Madagascan no longer exists; he has forgotten that the Madagascan exists with the European. The White man who came to Madagascar upset its psychological horizons and mechanisms. Everyone knows it: for the Black man, alterity is not the Black man but the White man. An island like Madagascar, invaded overnight by the “pioneers of civilization,” even if these pioneers had behaved as well as they could, underwent a de-structuring. It’s, by the way, Mannoni who said it: “At the beginning of colonization, each tribe wanted to have its token White man.” Whether we explain this through magical-totemic mechanisms, or through the need for contact with a terrible God, or through the illustration of a system of dependence, it is still true that something new had come to be on this island, and that we need to account for it lest we subscribe to a false, absurd and no longer relevant analysis. Since a new input had been introduced, we had to attempt to understand the new relationships that arose.

The landing of the White man on Madagascar provoked an incontestable wound. The consequences of this sudden European arrival on Madagascar are not just psychological, since, as everyone knows, there is an internal relationship between consciousness and the social context.

The economic consequences? We would have to put colonization on trial!

Let us continue our study.

“In abstract terms, the Madagascan can tolerate not being a white man. What’s cruel is first discovering that you are a man and then having this unity break down into Whites and Blacks. If the “abandoned” or “betrayed” Madagascan maintains his initial identification, it then becomes something he has to claim for himself; and he will demand equalities that he never felt the need for before. These equalities were advantageous to him before he had to demand them, but after, they became an insufficient remedy to his ills: because all progress made in making men equal will make the differences that suddenly seem painfully unerasable more difficult to stand. This is how the Madagascan goes from dependence to psychological inferiority.”


If he is Madagascan, it’s because the White man has arrived, and if, at any given moment of his history, he was made to ask whether he was a man or not, that’s because this reality of his had been contested. In other words, I start to suffer of not being White when the White man imposes a discrimination upon me, makes me into a colonized subject, despoils me of all value, all originality, tells me I am a parasite, that I had better catch up to the White world as fast as possible, “that I am a dumb beast, that my people and I are like a pile of walking manure, hideously promising of tender sugarcane and silky cotton, that I do not belong in the world.” So, I will simply try to become white, that is to say, I will force the White man to recognize my humanity. However, as Mannoni will tell us, you cannot, because deep inside of you there exists a dependence complex.

“Not all people are fit to being colonized, only those that posses this need.” And further: “Almost everywhere that Europeans have founded colonies like the one in question, we can say that they were expected and even desired in the unconscious of their subjects. All kinds of legends foreshadowed their arrival as strangers coming from the sea and destined to bring good things. As we can see, the White man obeys to a complex of authority, to a leader complex, while the Madagascan obeys to a complex of dependence. Everyone is happy.


My patient suffers from an inferiority complex. His psychic structure risks falling apart. I must prevent this and liberate him from this unconscious desire.

If he is so overwhelmed by the desire to be white, it’s because he lives in a society that makes his inferiority complex possible, in a society that draws its substance from the maintenance of this complex, in a society that affirms the superiority of a race; it’s precisely because this society presents him with difficulties that he finds himself in a neurotic position.

What emerges then is the necessity of a double action directed at the individual and the group. As a psychoanalyst, I have to help my client to make his unconscious conscious, to no longer attempt a hallucinatory whitening, but to take action in order to change social structures.

In other words, the Black man must no longer face this dilemma: become white or disappear; he must instead become aware of the possibility of existence…