Fanon: Interesting theories, potential over-simplifications?

While it is impossible to deny that Fanon brings up some compelling points about the impacts of cultural assimilation, I find myself inclined to disagree with some of his generalizing statements. Firstly, when Fanon states that, “a normal Negro child, having grown up in a normal Negro family, will become abnormal on the slightest contact of the white world”, I find myself questioning this statement. This makes a lot of sense in the context of a Negro child being raised by negro parents and then being taken away from them into a white family, but for him to basically imply that it is difficult if not impossible for all Negroes to fully function and thrive in a white-based society because of their collective unconscious is contradictory to human nature itself: things change, and we adapt.

It would have been unthinkably jarring to have been alive during the time in history when the assimilation of black culture was taking place, but I firmly believe that, centuries later, black culture within a “white” society is thriving. While many of the wounds of the time are still fresh and racism still sadly exists, to say that blackness is associated with wrongness is a claim that would only apply to an uneducated population. Much is constantly being done and proven to remove any stigmas and negative stereotypes surrounding “blackness”.

However, where I suddenly become intrigued with Fanon was with his idea of race as having more to do with image than biology or culture. I didn’t fully understand this concept until Jon Beasley-Murrey’s lecture today, but now, it makes a surprising amount of sense to me. If you think about it, race is nothing more than skin pigmentation colouring with increase of paleness from darkness based off of distance from the equator. Think of our modern society today, there are Canadians of all skin colours who identify themselves the same. I am glad this concept was brought up as I hope to one day need not discuss and focus so much on race for in the end, we are all humans and the colour of your skin won’t matter when the aliens invade us. 😉

3 thoughts on “Fanon: Interesting theories, potential over-simplifications?

  1. True, some of what Fanon has to say is limited in validity to the place and time in which he was writing, and may perhaps not be quite as applicable today. But I, too, like the idea of race as more of an image than anything else, something that one makes into something important rather than important in itself. What makes for “blackness” or “whiteness” or “Asianness” or what have you is something we create, we project, we live up to or deny. Why isn’t the colour of skin just as non-important as how tall one is or how big one’s feet are? Only because we create it to be, and we can create it not to be too.

  2. Exactly! Perhaps I was not clear enough. I meant that, seeing as the idea of “race” is entirely fabricated by our own assumptions and is continually changing as society progresses (for the better?), I find that Fanon’s ideas relate better to the time in which they were written rather than today. However with that said, the personal examples Yvy and Nicole gave today in seminar really made me think that perhaps Fanon’s ideas are still poignant today!

  3. Let me add: though I’d agree that in many ways we have indeed progressed since the 1950s, you simply have to look at the prevalence of mental health issues and (for instance) alcoholism among First Nations and Inuit peoples to see that the pyschological effects of colonial and postcolonial legacies, perhaps much as described by Fanon, continue to be relevant today.

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