Given my book recommendation yesterday, that is, Black Robes, White Justice, by Judge Bruce Wright, it seems natural to recommend this book by Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. In many respects, this book explains Black jurists’ administering “white justice,” and not being a counterweight to “white injustice.”
Black Skin, White Masks, is Fanon’s first book, published in 1952. It was supposed to be his dissertation, under another title. Fanon, trained in psychoanalysis, looks at the psychological impacts of colonialism, long before people started to talk about post-Slavery syndrome. Not only were countries colonized, but also minds, bodies, and souls. The first chapter alone, on language, is worth the price of the book. Elsewhere I’ve touched on Africans and their descendants throughout the Diaspora “learning” European languages, how these languages were simply not suited to the African tongue, especially English. For Fanon, the language is French. Fanon, born in Martinique, first spoke Creole French, which is not really a bastardized version of French, but French with the rhythms and accents of the Caribbean giving new life to the language, as if “standard” French is as dead as Latin, from which French evolved.
Fanon’s writings explains an American phenomenon, “passing.” What is often missing from the American narrative about Europeans coming to “America” is the wholesale rape of indigenous and African women. This happened throughout the “New World,” to such an extent that there was an attempt to classify the products of this rape. In the French Antilles, racial classification went to 1/64th Black! Ironically, it was the “black blood” that was controlling (hypodescent), that defined this European obsession with race: Sacatra (7/8); Griffe (3/4); Marabou (5/8); Mulatre (1/2); Quarteron (1/4) Metis (1/8); Mamelouk (1/16); Quarteronne (1/32); Sang-mele (1/64)! J.A. Rogers argues that this “miscegenation” created 55 shades of color.
Fanon is a most interesting subject, and I would recommend reading everything by him, from his first book, Black Skin, White Masks, to his last, The Wretched of the Earth. And even though The Wretched of the Earth is on my recommended book list, it might not make it on the list of 28 books I will have recommended this Black History Month, because there is simply so much to read to address not only The Miseducation of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson, which will be the last book I recommend this month, for the obvious reasons, but also the miseducation of Americans writ large. What I was aiming to say, by beginning with Fanon’s first book and ending with his last, one will see the evolution of his thinking. Sadly, Fanon died young, in 1961, at 35, at the beginning of the Decisive Decade. But he left us so much to ponder.