The Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon

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Compare and contrast Fanon's views on violence and nonviolence in Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth.

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Both Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth examine the violent effects of colonization. In each of these works, Fanon provides examples of the way colonizers shred the identity of the native population. Both convey a sense that violence is the result of the dehumanization of those who are colonized. People are pushed to violence when the color of their skin is a reason for colonizers to oppress them.

The Wretched of the Earth primarily examines the violence that emerges between the colonizer and the colonized. It examines the conflicts of societies where the colonized are seen as "disreputable" and are forced to live lives that are inherently separate and unequal to the colonizers.

Because this relationship was established by violent means, it is also maintained through violent efforts. Lines are established that clearly designate and protect those with power, and violence is utilized to maintain the preferred societal order of the colonizers. The colonized thus feel violence "rippling under their skin" as they come to realize that peaceful efforts will never achieve liberation. They eventually turn to violence as a "cleansing force" that finally frees the colonized from feelings of an "inferiority complex." Self-respect is restored, and their own consciousness is "illuminated by violence." Violence is the means by which the colonized feel that they are once again in charge of their own destinies, free from the limitations of the colonizers.

Black Skin, White Masks examines in greater detail the violence that is turned inward as a result of colonization. In this work, Fanon examines the ways Black people in particular begin to internalize the racist beliefs that are touted by whites. He recalls when a young boy pointed him out to his mother and told her that he was "frightened" of this Black man.

After years of being dehumanized and villainized, Black people begin to embody an innate sense of inferiority and even desire to be seen as "less Black" than other Black people. He discusses Mayotte Capécia, who is "proud" when she learns that her grandmother was white and then believes that her mother is "prettier than ever" when she recognizes the white genes in her mother's light skin.

Fanon relates that he has met numerous girls from Martinique who "would find it impossible to marry black men." These types of attitudes are woven throughout Black Skin, White Masks and point to a violence that is turned within. It is self-condemning and further fractures the Black identity. After all, anyone who hates a fundamental part of his own identity can certainly find no inner peace, and this anger is sure to "ripple under [the] skin" as surely as the conflict that is directed outward.

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