As Fred Moten notes, the title of his essay “The Case of Blackness” is a “spin off” on the mistranslated title of the fifth chapter, “The Fact of Blackness,” in Frantz Fanon’s book Black Skins, White Masks.
For Moten, Fanon’s ideas about Black identity are constrained by psychological verbiage. According to Moten, Fanon “is embedded in a discourse that holds the pathological in close proximity to the criminal.” For Moten, Fanon’s preoccupation with attempting to sort out the mindset and consciousness of a Black subject limits and restricts notions of Black identity. Fanon’s arguments, according to Moten, put him between “a rock and a crawl space.”
Moten’s ideas depart from Fanon’s focus on how, when, and why a Black person comes into political consciousness and realizes it's their “duty” to resist and combat colonialism and other manifestations of oppression. For Moten, the question shouldn't be whether the “disorderly behavior of the anti-colonialist is pathological or natural.”
That question, in Moten’s view, has a firm answer. For Moten, the pathological is Black. The Black identity is already disruptive, and these “disorders” are extraordinarily positive. They signal a rich, strong social and cultural life that’s evinced in everything from the poetry and music of Black people to their underground organization efforts.
While Fanon wants to discuss the ways in which pathologies relate to Black people and certain constructions of humanity, Moten has already arrived at the conclusion that these pathologies are evidence of the “infinite humanity” of the Black identity. Now, with that settled, Moten wants to move on to what such a “vast range of Black authenticities and Black pathologies” can do.