A brief analysis on Color prejudice and Negritude movement
First of all, it is very important to understand the meaning of the terms like “colonization” and “oppression” because Franz Fanon’s essay on “color prejudice” and “Negritude movement” which we are going to discuss are closely tied with these terms.
Colonization simply means the establishment of a colony in a specific region where the mass invasion of indigenous people by a ruling power resulting oppression. So, colonization is politically illegal, culturally destructive and psychologically painful. The colonizer tries to legitimate their illegal occupation by calling the colonized as barbarian so need to be civilized or liberated from the dark shadow. The colonized subject however consider it as a political propaganda and they think that colonization has robbed their unique mother tongue, ancient civilization and above all, the earlier peaceful life at their home. The exercise of authority in a cruel manner by the colonizer leaves a deep impact on the psyche of colonized individuals and “color prejudice” is none other than a negative form of oppression because which imposes forcefully but untouchably a “inferiority complex” within the psyche of oppressed group.
Franz Fanon was an Algerian liberation fighter, psychiatrist and writer who challenged the intense racism, suppression and de-humanism of white people over Algerian and other African countries of his time. His major aim was to overthrow the white oppression through violent revolution from the grassroots level to restore the black self-respect, identity and dignity. So we can say his idea was blended with Marxist ideology to reveal the inferiority complex the black people has been forced to accept as a natural fact and they were being indoctrinated to see them as such.
In this particular essay, Fanon gives utmost importance to the phenomenon of language. He believes that speaking the language of other nation means you are living absolutely for the betterment of that particular nation thus ignoring the culture of your own. Franz Fanon, unlike Chinua Achebe, believes that speaking, writing, and thinking in other nation will distance yourself from your own culture, custom and other social manners. He says “black man has two dimension of language”. One with his own fellow and the other with white man, thus black people’s behavior with Negro and white are also different. Fanon regards it as a colonial subjugation of black people.
Fanon uses the example of Negro in Antilles as an example of challenge the colonized people face regarding language. Creole was the native language of Martinique; however French was made to be the official language of that region. Creole was initially developed in an effort to allow the white people to communicate with black slave on plantation. Speaking of creole however created a sense of identity, people were therefore pressured to speak in French as oppose to creole. He says adopting another language is above all to assume a culture. In the presence of oppressor, colonized subject tends to assume that their language is inferior to that of colonizers’ because of their language is dissimilar to the newly imposed language. As a result, black people constantly compare and analyze his ability to speak like colonizer and their dominant culture.by doing so, an inferiority complex is developed as a consequence of colonization, and they see the language of oppressor is a gateway for freedom and prosperity. The linguistically natured oppression has strongly affected the mind of oppressed that once they have reached France they used to listen to their own speech and lock themselves in their rooms and read for hours to work desperately on their diction.
Fanon explains that by speaking in French, black could become like “White” and can achieve higher social status and think themselves as equal to white in society.
The imposition of language has driven some of black people to look down upon their own native people who can’t speak French well enough. Those who have lived in metropolitan France when they return to their native land, they never speak creole. They speak rather like “white men” in the sense they have adopted a language which is different from the group he was born with and their personality and behavior pattern have changed in entirety and Fanon views this as an evidence of dislocation and separation from their true origin.
The Negros in Antilles get annoyed of being suspected as Senegal and people born in Dahomey and Congo pretend to be the native of Antilles because Antilles was considered to be more civilized. In such a way, the black people are conformed to accept the notion of European creation which perceives white as superior and civilized while black are inferior and uncivilized. This idea is internalized by both white and black through use of language. Fanon wonders why skin color was made to be the criterion by which people are judged.
European has a fixed concept of Negro and they are considered to be savage, bestial and illiterate. The colonized people are not seen by colonizer as human and this is the idea the colonized in one way or the other to accept and believe. Fanon argues that Africans are more human than white people for the simple reason that when white people feel oppressed by mechanism, they turn to black for spiritual solace.
Fanon thinks that it is an unfortunate legacy of colonization that some of African nationalist who are trained in the western world who tend to abandon the traditional way of life and governance, they try to imitate western style. He rejects the idea of imitating European to catch up with them. His position is very clear that there should be total revolution, taking up arms against white whereby colonizers are forced to leave African soil. By doing so, black people can free themselves from inferiority complex, inaction and restore their self-respect.
Franz Fanon‘s philosophy has been shaped by his teacher Aime Cesaire who was considered to be the founder of negritude movement.
Negritude is a cultural movement launched in 1930 in Paris by French speaking black graduate students from France’s colonies in Africa and Caribbean territories. The black intellectuals came together to raise the issue of their race- identity to combat French imperialism. They found solidarity in their common ideal of affirming pride in their black identity, culture, and African heritage and reclaiming African self-determination and self-respect.
The negritude movement signals the awaking race consciousness among the black people in Africa which roots in re-discovery of self and spark a collective action to condemn the western domination, anti-black racism, enslavement and colonization of black people. It sought to dispel the stereotypical notion linked with the black people by acknowledging their rich culture and history.
Negritude is basically a cultural movement which protests against the French colonial rule and their policy of cultural assimilation. Many poets and writers however put their artistic expression in service of negritude, it soon turned into a literary, ideological, philosophical and political movement. Its leading figures were Sedar Senhor(First president of Senegal in 1960) and Aime Cesaire and Leon Damas. For the first time these great people met in 1931 and they began to examine the western idea and notion critically and re-assess African culture.
The term negritude was coined by cesaire from the French word “Negre”, he proudly incorporated that derogatory term into the name of an ideological movement. He argues that negritude is the simple recognition of fact that one is black, thus it becomes a powerful tool of unifying, confronting, and liberating force in the face of western domination and imperialism to restore the cultural value of black race.
Negritude movement was influenced by the “Harlem Renaissance” a literary and artistic flowering among the black thinker and artist in the United States which sought to reconceptualize “the Negro” apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced black peoples’ relationship to their heritage and to each other. The movement laid a superb groundwork for all later African American literature and had an enormous impact on subsequent black literature and consciousness across the globe.
According to Cessaire “Negritude” is not cephalic index or plasma but measured by the compass of suffering. He responds to the century-old alienation of black by calling for the rejection of assimilation and reclaims their own racial heritage and qualities.
Leon Damas views that becoming French requires loss, repression and rejection of self as well as adoption of a civilization that robs the indigenous people’s value, culture and belief. Thus for him, negritude is a categorical rejection of assimilation that negates black spontaneity.
Both Cessaire and Leon Damas, promote and quest for a authentic self, re-discovery of African value and civilization. Senghor, unlike these two great figures, advocates assimilation that allows association. He envisions western reason and Negro soul as an instrument of research to create a civilization of unity by symbiosis. He advocates the celebration of tradition and customs but rejects a return to the old way of doing things.
Franz Fanon wrote “Black skin, white mask” in year 1952 and his literary production has immensely contributed to the later revolutionary movement which sparked in 1960’s. There are diverting ideas on the negritude movement however the nature of movement can be categorized into two on the basis of its characteristics.
First, Self-assertion: negritude movement can be said as acceptance of being black and promotion of African history, identity and culture to build unity, solidarity among the African people.
Second, Rejection of western domination and stereotypical idea: negritude movement is a movement to challenge the racial hierarchy and black inferiority developed by white people and revolt against the French colonization.
Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black Skin, White Mask. New York: Grove Press.
Africana Age- New York Public Library
A brief guide to negritude- poet’s. org
Franz Fanon’s Black Race philosophy
Franz Fanon and Colonization- a Psychology of oppression