79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2006
Frantz Fanon was a black man born in the French colony and island of Martinique. He trained as a doctor specialising in psychiatry. He was deeply concerned about the impact of colonialism on the people of colour, particularly how it humiliated them, destroyed their culture, values and dignity. This led him to get involved in the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s.
The book "Black Skin, White Masks" was written almost fifty years ago. This was during the time when decolonisation of the African continent and elsewhere was gathering momentum.
To adequately capture and assimilate Fanon's thinking of the question of colonialism and racism and their impact on the coloured people, one also needs to read Fanon's other great works: "The Wretched of the Earth" and "Dying Colonialism". Here one can see his anger and the background to his conclusion that it was only through violence that people of colour could liberate themselves from colonialism, particularly from mental bondage and inferiority complex that accompanied colonial subjugation.
In "Black Skin, White Masks", Fanon develops his thesis about the impact of inferiority complex of subjugated peoples and the alienation of some of them from their kind resulting in their wish to identified with the colonialists or imitate the European. There are a number of celebrated and classic cases of coloured people who have tried various formulas to change the colour of their skins, the tone of their voices or their names so that they sound more civilised (European).
Fanon's ideas about how the coloured people can liberate themselves (physically and mentally) influenced many leaders of revolutionary movements that were fighting colonialism. Some organisations in the USA, such as the Nation of Islam, appear to embrace a lot of Fanon's ideas and thinking.
The book is recommended reading for those who wish to understand the impact of colonialism on the colonised around the world and their different reactions to this menace.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2000
frantz fanon's black skin, white mask has something for every reader of every color (including white). his insights into the psychological damage resulting from colonialism, self-denial, racism, and other connected phenomena provide a path for those of us still grappling with these issues some forty years after the publication of this text. moreover, his intellectual contributions are secondary to the compelling force of his personality and integrity that one senses between the lines. this book is as compelling as a novel and as englightening as a mentor.
58 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2001
Fanon's amazing book is one of the landmarks in modern thinking, as far as I am concerned. Fanon says he wants to expose the sickness in order for it to be cured. He exposes the sickness inflicted on Africans by the contact with the colonizing white West in a razor sharp accuracy and courage. Fanon is completely honest, sparing no criticism from the Africans nor the Europeans. He gets help from giant figures like Cesaire and Senghor, and creates an emotionally and intellectually charged masterpiece.
I learned from Fanon about the use of language as a colonialist tool, the terrible affect on African self esteem, the psychological turmoil that erupts as a result of the contact with white society.
It is clear the world is not the same today as it was in the 50's, but Fanon's book is just as relevant.
Quoting from Sartre talking about another book by Fanon: "Have the courage to read this book !".
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 1998
This publishing of this treatise saw the roots of Black Consciousness expand outside the limits of Negritude. More clearly at the time, Fanon began his transformation from 'European intellectual' to polemic scholar to socialist revolutionary that would culminate in the release of Les Damnees de la Terre and Fanon's tragic death due to leukemia. Black Skin, White Masks, however, may in fact be the most enduring of Fanon's work, and it reads as well today as it did in 1953. Upon its completion, Fanon became a cult icon in French intellectual circles, rubbing shoulders with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Bouvoir, among others. It is not difficult to see why; from the first page, Fanon emotes his most heartfelt anger. It is a work as passionate as it is intelligent, and as concise as it is dynamic. Through it all, the reader is treated to Fanon's magnificently fluid writing style, brilliantly translated by Constance Farrington.
32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2004
Written in 1952, Fanon's novel is a response to Mannoni's 'Prospero complex', which states that white colonizers have a symbiotic relationship to the races they colonize, and that this relationship is built upon a system of mutual dependence. The whites have a need to dominate, and the other races have a need to be dominated. Fanon passionately and accurately REJECTS this theory, saying that the only neurosis resides in the white male, and his innate fear of other races. Taking his discourse to the sports arena and the bedroom, Fanon argues that the white male possesses a sexual-performance anxiety toward other races, especially the African. He fears he will be outmatched on the field, and outlasted in bed, by the African. It is this fear that causes the xenophobic anxiety within the white male, and propels him to subdue and dominate the other races. Fanon argues that the Africans were doing pretty well before the colonizers came along, but now all worlds are forever changed. Although this book is an angry argument against white ideas of dominance, I find it to be largely accurate and an imperative read for anyone hoping to gain greater insight into the 'true' motivations behind racialism.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 1998
This book was remarkable in helping me to confirm some of the many behaviors that I had observed among family and friends, but was unable to pin down or understand. Fanon has incredible insight into the effect of colonialism onthe self-concept and consecutive behaviors of the Caribbean individual and all balck people and culture that has been forever changed by the penetration of European culture and ideology.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2010
This book has provided me with a tremendous sense, not only as a black person, but an educated minority having difficulty managing the world of white and black. The more I've progressed academically and professionally, the more I felt marginalized by both peoples, particular by other blacks. After a recent haranguing experience with a former co-worker, I decided I had enough and began reading on what it means to be black to be refute such nonsense. And this book provided in ways I could not have possibly expected.
The first aspect of critical importance was, what I felt Fanon's exploration of the psychology of being black, both male and female. Males pathologic plight lies in his desire to self-actualize and be seen as a man while women's plight derives from the need to be financial secure and to have assurance that her offspring will be not only taken cared of but in a socio-economic position higher than hers. Because of which, have incentives to go "white." Fanon indentifies the problem to be an economic issue at its root, and the epidermalization of inferiority at its core. The black intellectual is a special case, alienated by his fellow men adopted the vernacular and behavior of whites only to further push him from his people. Worse is the consciousness that the other culture (whites) did not fully accept you as their own, for the simple reason that you were "of a different kind." This was an ugly pathologic death spiral that would lead first to him hating all other blacks then me hating his self. On all account, this describes my very own psychology, and the general tone of so many blacks I've come across.
Second critical theme of this book was its exploration at all the "solutions" to the plight of blacks, usually espoused by blacks themselves. The first solution involved adopting "whiteness" (through language, dress, and behavior) Fanon explored and is shown to be naïve, as whites will always believe themselves, at some subconscious level, superior. The next solution of reverting back to some priori of culture, ergo some African culture is argued to be an equally incredulous idea, as, at its root, this also demands an acceptance of socio-economic levels based on non-normative things such as culture or race. Worse is the solution that there "is no race" or blackness not mattering or no longer mattering. This is perhaps the most credulous of all false pretensions provided thus far. There is simply no such thing nor will there ever be, as race and culture is something forever imbued in the genome of man. As seen through personal experience, blacks truly do have an inescapable neurotic inferiority within their sociogenic memory due to the racialist society they reside. It is this environment that lead to, at a subconscious level that slowly ruminates outward, guilt in the presence of whites for being black. While whites will continually provide recognition of blacks only as they show subservience to the values they prescribe upon blacks ("toothy smile" and "docileness") and the degree of adaptation of themselves into their culture.
The final theme explores the true solution to blackness. The demanding of blacks of nothing short of is treated with respect and recognition as people and holders of culture of equal value. That since blacks forgone physical strife for their rights, the only option and solution for equality in the eyes of whites, and of themselves, is of demanding the inalienable right that all men have. Their right is to demand certain human behavior from another and duty of not renouncing my free thought or personal choices for another. I need not fit any particular stereotype. "I travel the world endlessly creating myself. Whenever a man presupposes anything about me for the mere reason of my skin color, I will vehemently and unmercifully defend myself and require his thinking and actions change, as this is fundamental to my humanity under god."
Thank you Dr. Fanon for writing a book, that despite being 60 years old, still provides a candid and truthful exposé of the pathology of blacks in modernity. Particular those in this day and age stripped of heritage and pride, who all they have in their past is Jim crow and slavery, it is good to know that if youth are willing to look, there are plenty books to enlighten and strengthen them by providing powerful definitions on exactly who they really are. Just as this 232 pager did for me.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2013
I read this book many, many moons ago when I was 20 yrs old. It altered the way I think, the way I perceived the world and my place in it. As a result of reading this book I developed mental techniques that prevented me from being sucked into the dominant society's concept of beauty and getting caught in the more-bigger is better mindset. Unfortunately, in America in 2013, the masks we wear reveal that we of the African diaspora are still divorced from our souls, still pursue a look that can never be ours.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2004
Did you know that in certain African countries Africans bleech their skin hoping to look white, in some cases it is fatal, but the point is they do it to look more European. In the United States there is the famous case of Michael Jackson and his lose of his skin pigmentation, he says it is a disease, but many like myself question.There is also the famous paper bag test and the comb through the hair test done by many African Americans to each other in order to measure their level of European blood, thus their level of status.The question is why does this or did this happen and is it some how related to colonialism? It seems that in most places where people of color were colonized whether in Africa, South America, or South East Asia(yes the problem is not solely an African problem) the conquered people develop an inferiority complex and try to assimilate into the main stream culture.In some cases this means actually trying to become European(literally) through race mixing or in the most extreme cases surgery, in fact some Asian Americans get the folds removed from their eyes trying to give them a more European look. Fanon brilliantly focuses on this problem of the inferority complex like no other he uses Martinique(French colony) as his case study for a good part of his book.After reading Fanons other great works "Wretched of the Earth" and a "Dying Colonialism" I believe Fanon thinks the only way for the Black to survive and regain his self esteem is for a violent Third World revolution(remember when the book was written) aimed at removing not just physical colonialism but also the mental colonialism and hegemony which in many ways can be worse than the physical colonialism.I believe it was the famous African American historian Carter G. Woodson that said in his book the "Mis-Education of the Negro" you do not have to worry about controlling a man you just have to controll how he thinks...I believe Fanon realized that this is where the problem lies.anyone interested in topics like the Council of Berlin and the great Scramble for Africa when Africa was divided up by European powers should read all of Fanons books not just this one. Also if you are interested in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement in America especially the revolutionary militant groups like the Black Panthers,R.A.M,and U.S, read Fanon because that is what many of them were reading and it influenced their thought. I also recommend those interested in Fanon to study the life of Kwame Nkrumah he could be of some interest.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2009
This is and was a great book. Even though he discussed the effects of racism in regards to his native land of Martinique we Mr. Fanon has to say still resounds in today's so-called PC world.
I do wish he had lived long enough to see Barack Obama elected President of the United States. I would have loved to hear his take on that. The only aspect I found missing from this book is his opinion on Black American ex-patriots living in France. James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Josephine Baker.... Did these African-Americans living in Paris not realize the effect of colonolism on all Africans in the Diaspora?, or were they treated as "Honorary Whites" in France. I truly wish Frantz Fanon had explored that entire subject.