Evaluating the Parallels between Black Skins, White Masks and The Souls of Black Folk
The phenomenal books entitled Black Skins, White Masks, written by the notable Frantz Fanon and The Souls of Black Folk, by prominent author, historian, and activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, better known as W.E.B Du Bois, both express the trials and tribulations of Blacks in respect to their identity. Black Skins, White Masks, originally written in 1952, in French was translated into English by Richard Philcox to increase the population of those who would be impacted by this book. Due to Fanon’s training in psychiatry, discussed in the forward, the book was heavily rooted with his psychoanalyses on a multitude of topics including identity, racism, and inferiority. In contrast to the structure of Fanon’s first novel, The Souls of Black Folk, first published in 1903, was organized as a series of essays with each essay commencing with hymns, or Sorrow Songs as Du Bois describes it. W.E.B Du Bois channels his opinions and observations on the split identity of Black people.
The personal experiences expressing the plight of Blacks through first-hand contact of both Du Bois and Fanon are assorted throughout their books. Du Bois’ experiences were that of his time in New England, his birthplace, as well as in Europe. Fanon’s experiences were based on life in Martinique, where he was born, and France. Using this tactic, both authors were able to clearly articulate how their experiences relate to those of other Blacks. Fanon structured his book in a manner of speaking of occurrences in his life and then oftentimes linking them to a psychological study or statistic. Likewise, the essays in Du Bois’ book each told a story of his life less the in depth psychological elements. Fanon explains the thoughts of Blacks in the white world by means of psychoanalyses.
Fanon realized that during slavery, Blacks were stripped from their African home and dropped into a white world that they were not accustom to, resulting in Blacks forgetting their original culture. From this developed psychological damages in the thoughts of Blacks. In a world where Africans were not even treated like human beings, a sense of inferiority overwhelmed the Black culture. Even post-slavery Blacks were supposed to be servants for white people in the white world. As a result of this feeling of inadequacy, there was a great loss of their culture and thus they assimilated the culture of the same person that oppressed them, the white man. Blacks would attempt to duplicate the many aspects of a white dominated culture because this was their attempt to overcome the feeling of inferiority. Educated Black people were most prominent in this assimilation due to the fact that they had greater access to the paraphernalia linked with white culture. Frantz Fanon quoted a Professor Westermann’s The African Today where he stated “The wearing of European clothes, whether rags or the most up-to-date style; using European furniture and European forms of social intercourse; adorning the native language, all these contribute to a feeling of equality with the European and his achievements” (Fanon 9). This excerpt further clarifies that the identity of many Blacks were molded to believe that they were not good enough and thus an inferiority complex developed. Blacks would assess themselves using whites as the measuring device. Consequently, they would not look at themselves through their eyes but of whites. W.E.B Du Bois saw this as one of the most prevalent issues of this time. He developed a term called double consciousness which he discusses in The Souls of Black Folk. He states “the Negro is a sort of the seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with the second- sight in this American world,- a world which yields him to no true self- consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world…, this double- consciousness, this sense of always looking at...
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