Summary of Chapter 3 of Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks
Chapters 2 and 3 of Black Skin, White Masks are about romantic relationships between Black and white people in white societies. Many of the examples are about love between people from Antilles and people from France within France. In Chapter 2, Fanon focuses on relationships between Black women and white men in France. In Chapter 3, it’s Black men and white women. At the beginning of Chapter 2, Fanon announces he “believe[s] in the possibility of love.” Thus, by exploring how love is made difficult across racial differences, Fanon is also trying to imagine how love could be made possible as well, if different social conditions existed.
Fanon argues that black men desire white women because, through being loved by a white woman, black men feel recognized by the world as white and closer to the white ideal that racist culture upholds. He will examine René Maran’s seemingly autobiographical novel Un homme pareil aux autres (A Man Like Any Other), about a black Antillean called Jean Veneuse who has lived in Bordeaux, France for many years. In the novel, Jean states that white Europeans do not understand black people. It is possible to describe Jean as an “introvert” or a “sensitive person.” He is talented, but shy and anxious, and is desperate to “prove to… others that he is a man.” Jean is in love with a white woman named Andrée Marielle, who has in turn written to say that she is in love with him. However, Jean feels that he needs a white man to give him permission to be with her. He seeks the advice of his white friend Coulanges, who tells him that since he left his home country as an infant and is so connected to Bordeaux, he is “really one of us.” Coulanges emphasizes: “You only look like a black… you think like a European. That’s why it’s only normal for you to love like a European.” Fanon notes that although Coulanges has given his permission for Jean to marry Andrée, he does so on the “condition” that Jean renounces his blackness and thinks of himself as a white Frenchman.
As a black man raised in a postcolonial society myself, reading Black Skin, White Masks has been an emotional and illuminating experience, especially because I realise how my own lifetime contradictions in a white world have for so long blinded me from even knowing about the book’s existence. For me, Fanon’s book remains a relevant companion to more recent work, such as those of black feminist writers like Angela Davis, bell hooks and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to name but a few who write in English across a very diverse body of literature. In fact, it would be interesting to see how, if still alive, an older Fanon would react to those who identify sexism, especially towards black women (e.g. Bergner 1995), and homophobic tones (e.g. Moore-Gilbert 1996) in his first book. Impossible hypotheses aside, Fanon’s book has remained relevant because it provokes people of colour and white people to confront the powerful ways in which structural racism affects minds, relationships and everyday politics in a world that remains extremely unequal and violent in terms of racial relations.
To sum up, Black Skin, White Masks gives the reader a provocative look inside the mind of post-Colonial black man. Fanon’s psychoanalytic analysis of the topic of racism is a unique and fresh view of the downfalls of man. He makes a compelling argument that blacks want to be and try to be whites, but will never be granted true acceptance in the white man’s world. However, human society is set up in a way that, no matter how hard a black man tries, he will never be truly equal to the white man. Until both groups can learn to be men, instead of black men or white men, racism will not and cannot be overcome.
Gwen Bergner, PMLA, Vol. 110, No. 1, Special Topic: Colonialism and the Postcolonial Condition (Jan., 1995), pp. 75-88
Bart Moore‐Gilbert (1996) Frantz Fanon: En‐gendering nationalist discourse, Women: A Cultural Review, 7:2, 125-135