Notes on ‘The fact of blackness’ by Frantz Fanon
- The author came into the world with an idealism which was removed by his becoming ‘an object’.
- He suggests that within the world of black people he felt ok- not different-something like a natural state.
- But when he was seen by ‘the other’, by whites, the change in him was very physical-like a chemical reaction. They looked and behaved towards him as different
- Colonized peoples (is this another term for black? Or is it more general?) seem to have a fundamental Flaw in their world view. …They can only understand themselves as black- in relation to the white man. The author believes the converse is not true.
- the customs and history of black men were wiped out by white men, because their culture and civilisation was different.
- In the 20th C, the author remembers talking about ‘the black problem’ with friends, but he thought everyone was equal, and the differences between people seemed like an abstraction.
- This changed massively when he began to meet white men, or more specifically their eyes…..
- In the white man’s world the author describes a different schema which governs his sense of self. His sense of his consciousness being set apart from his body, (perhaps a little like that of women in John Berger’s text on the nude in art??)
- He is always aware of how his body is moving in space and time- it’s never completely instinctual and natural-because he is always observing himself- (like Berger’s woman who is both surveyed and surveyor-here the white man is equivalent to Berger’s observing man)
- He had both a sense of himself as a black body (the corporeal schema), but also a sense which came not from anything bodily, but through how he was viewed by ‘the other’-the white man, which was based on ‘stories and anecdotes’.
- He next describes an incident where his blackness was raised by a white man (albeit a child)
- as the child ratchets up the tension shouting ‘Look, a negro!’ several times, Fanon moves from initial amusement to nausea.
- His description of how he changed throughout this encounter is difficult to grasp completely, but he says he ‘crumbles’ from a ‘corporeal self’ (implying that he was inhabiting his own body in unison here) to a ‘racial epidermal schema’ (ie. One defined by being Black with respect to the whites) which seems to involve something of the feeling described earlier (a disembodied consciousness).
- He seems to have become embroiled in a negative train of thoughts about his blackness, and many stylised characteristics of negroes (ie. Those which prejudiced whites would dwell on).
These negative thoughts seem similar to the imaginary world set up through ideologies. He was subjecting himself at this point to a racist ideological view?
- ‘On that day’ fanon says, he became an object- against his will (it’s not entirely clear whether this was the first time it happened- the start of his being objectified, and separated among white men)..
- The child becomes more racist, and his thoughts continue to spiral with caricatured and mean descriptions of the negro, and by extension himself. He is ugly, mean, bad, angry…
- The author makes comparisons with another ‘different’ group- the jews. The jews are anxious about how people think they might act-in stereotypical jewish ways (‘their conduct is perpetually overdetermined from the inside’).
- But unlike the jews, Fanon is instantly recognisable as an ‘other’ based on indelible skin colour-not actions which can be hidden (he is over determined from without).
- Fanon implies that from this movement, he begins to move slowly, to find life difficult and restricting, he is changed from his natural self into one completely determined by the white man.