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Lewis Gordon Examines Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks in an Excerpt from What Fanon Said

What Fanon SaidThe Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from Lewis Gordon’s What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to his Life and Thought.

Gordon is Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs; European Union Visiting Chair in Philosophy at Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, France; and Nelson Mandela Distinguished Visiting Professor at Rhodes University. He was a guest of the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival recently.

Read the excerpt, which looks at Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks:

There is a white construction called “the black”. This construction is told that if he or she really is human, then he or she could go beyond the boundaries of race. The black can supposedly “really choose” to live otherwise as a form of social being that is not black and is not any racial form or designation.

Racial constructions are leeches on all manifestations of human ways of living: language, sex, labour (material and aesthetic), socialising (reciprocal recognition), consciousness, and the “soul”. Black Skin, White Masks thus describes a quasi-anonymous black hero’s efforts to shake off these leeches and live an adult human existence.

Each chapter represents options offered the black by modern Western thought. In good faith, then, the black hero attempts to live through each of these options simply as a human being. But the black soon discovers that to do so calls for living simply as a white. Antiblack racism presents whiteness as the “normal” mode of “humanness”. So, the black reasons, if blackness and whiteness are constructed, perhaps the black could then live the white construction, which would reinforce the theme of constructivity.

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