Black Skin White Masks

By Frantz Fanon (1952)

Book Review

Free PDF: Black Skin White Masks

Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925 of mixed heritage. He fought with the French resistance during World War II and received a scholarship to study medicine and psychiatry in France. In 1953, he accepted a hospital position in Algeria, where he joined the Algerian National Liberation Front. He died of leukemia in 1961.

Fanon was the first to systematically document and analyze the tendency of people of color to internalize the racism of the dominant culture. This process can include both self-deprecation based on race and unconscious adoption of European culture in preference to their own.

The book received international acclaim following Fanon’s death (from leukemia) in 1961 and was highly influential in the 1960s black power movement, both in Africa and the US.

Fanon’s analysis is a bit too Freudian for my tastes, though it makes important observations about the systematic destruction of African language and culture during colonization and enslavement. It also includes some fascinating observations about European family life, eg the fact that 30% of children born to typical European families become neurotic.

 

Comments
  1. William Horne says:

    One of my favorite criticisms of racism, colonization, and capitalism. Not up-to-date psychology, as you note, but powerful social commentary. Always glad to see it being read/discussed.

    • Thanks for commenting William. To be honest, this is one of those books I had been meaning to read for 40 years. And I’m very glad I did so. Like you say, it’s powerful social commentary.

  2. Dr. Bramhall, in growing up in a former British colony, I was exposed and subjected to this phenomenon of black skin with white masks. Everything white was so much better than our own local customs and cultural achievements. It’s mental conditioning that I still struggle with.

  3. I am really touched by such a personal comment, Rosaliene. I myself find it extremely alarming the extent to which I have been colonized. Like you say, it’s a daily struggle.

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