One of Sigmund Freud’s main theories was that an individual’s personality development is rooted in his or her psychological background. Part of this belief concerned what happens when an individual experiences and represses trauma. Freud theorized that multiple repressed traumas can eventually cause mental health issues that are difficult to address.
In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon translates Freud’s ideas about repressed trauma to issues of race. He underscores that the Freudian approach to psychoanalysis cannot apply to black people’s experiences because society’s systemic racial hierarchies ensure black individuals are impacted by socio-political structures, not just psychobiology. However, Fanon argues that black people have a collective trauma rooted in legacies of colonialism and slavery. He refers to this concept as a “collective unconscious,” in which black people can still experience negative psychological effects from the experiences of slavery and colonization even without personally experiencing them (72).
Fanon’s discussion about racial identity also draws parallels to Freud’s discussion of differences between men and women. For example, consider one of Fanon’s major points, that society’s white gaze—the way social value and worth is determined in relation to the concept of whiteness—makes black men’s development of identity difficult. He explains that visual understandings of the white ideal disorient black men’s understanding of themselves (110).
This idea reflects Freud’s discussion of the internalization of sexual difference. Freud theorized that early visualization of experiences of sexual difference influenced the way individuals come to understand sexual difference later in their development. For instance, he claimed that ideologies of female inferiority were connected with visual memories of female anatomy. For more interesting information on this parallel, I highly recommend the attached article.