Black Skin, White Masks

Black Skin, White Masks Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the role of children’s stories in Fanon’s analysis?

    Fanon discusses how children’s stories usually focus on adventure. In many cases, they are about white explorers going into “uncharted” lands where “savages” live. Children naturally identify with the hero, which means Black children, too, first of all think they are the heroes in the story. But when they realize that, because they are Black, they are actually the savages, a neurosis begins. In these cultural representations where Black children cannot identify with heroes, they lose a sense of self as well as agency to act in the world.

  2. 2

    What is Fanon’s critique of Alfred Adler?

    Adler was a psychotherapist like Fanon. However, Adler lacked the social perspective Fanon had. Where Fanon saw social problems relating to an unjust society, Adler saw individual neuroses that were the private problems of one person at a time. In turn, Adler thought we could cure neuroses by having individuals develop a more realistic understanding of the world. For Fanon, the task instead is to change the world. Get rid of racism, and the neuroses produced by racism will go away, too.

  3. 3

    What is Fanon’s critique of the “dependency complex”?

    M. Mannoni thought that Black people have a natural dependency complex. That means they naturally feel inferior, which is why they accepted colonialism and submitted to the superiority of white people. In contrast, Fanon argues that white people create the inferiority of black people in order to support their own superiority. There is no dependency complex before racism.

  4. 4

    To what level are Black men primarily reduced in European society?

    According to Fanon, Black men are primarily reduced to the genital or biological level. That means they are not thought of as having brains or minds, but rather solely as having bodies associated with sexual reproduction. This also leads to the fear Black men produce in European society, where they are thought of as rapists from which white women need protection. Black men are over-sexualized and considered beasts.

  5. 5

    How does Fanon compare and contrast the experience of Black and Jewish people?

    Drawing upon the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Fanon says both Black and Jewish people in Europe are considered an “Other.” Both are considered evil and inferior to the rest of white society. However, there is a difference in the kind of threat that this evil represents. Jews are depicted as a threat to the economy and political life. Blacks are considered a threat to bodies, because they are primarily seen as biological and over-sexual. Both are Othered, but in different ways.

  6. 6

    According to Fanon, how is a Black inferiority complex created?

    According to Fanon, racism creates a system in which white people have advantages compared to Black people. White people have more power, and they also have all the cultural representations in which they appear as good and heroic. A Black inferiority complex is created when Black people internalize this social dynamic. Black people begin to think that an economic hierarchy is also a natural hierarchy of humanity, and they interpret the subjugation of Black people as their own inferiority.

  7. 7

    How does Fanon describe Black people who “want to be white”?

    The first three chapters of Black Skin, White Masks are about Black people who identify the social advantages of being white and therefore want to be white themselves. For instance, this is behind some of the motivations Black people have for dating white people, according to Fanon, because white people seem to provide access to a white world. But inevitably this leads to neurosis, Fanon says, because Black people will always be Black, and running away from Blackness is running away from one’s self.

  8. 8

    What is Fanon’s stance on different kinds or degrees of racism?

    According to Fanon, there are no degrees of racism. A society is either racist or not. That’s because racism is an absolute evil that attacks the very essence of humanity. There are no degrees to such an evil. Therefore, it is foolish to talk about one society being more racist than another, for instance.

  9. 9

    What is the relation between economic and psychological inferiority?

    According to Fanon, psychological inferiority, or an inferiority complex, is an internalization of economic inferiority, or disadvantage. Racist societies create different opportunities for Black and white people. Black people receive inferior opportunities. When Black people internalize this objective inferiority as a subjective inferiority, they develop a sense of inadequacy that things are their fault instead of the product of a racist society.

  10. 10

    In what context does Fanon discuss the phrase, “Look, a Negro!”?

    This quote opens up Fanon’s discussion of the “Fact of Blackness.” Fanon says that people think of themselves first of all as human before they think of themselves as belonging to any kind of identity category, including race. When someone shouts out on the streets in Paris that he is a “Negro” instead of just a “human,” he is immediately dehumanized and forced to confront that, in a racist society, he will always be considered Black before he is considered a man.