Keith's Reviews > Black Skin, White Masks

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
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Sep 29, 2009

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Read in October, 2009

"What the colonial in common with Prospero lacks, is awareness of the world of Others, a world in which Others have to be respected. This is the world from which the colonial has fled because he cannot accept men as they are. Rejection of the world is combined with an urge to dominate, an urge which is infantile in origin and which social adaptation has failed to discipline. The reason the colonial himself gives for his flight-whether he says it was the desire to travel, or the desire to escape from the cradle or from the "ancient parapets," or whether he says that he simply wanted a freer life-is of no consequence . . . It is always a question of compromising with the desire for a world without men" (qtd. in 107-108).

The "Prospero Complex" when applied to race relations seems like a justification for colonialists treating black Africans as subordinates, inferior to their dominance. While Prospero is worried that Caliban will rape his daughter Miranda in The Tempest, many white South Africans had the perception that black men's sexuality was uncontrollable as they would try to rape a white daughters the first chance they had. However, if this rape does not occur, one can be imagined so much to make it real. As we have already read about this semester, a commonly held belief among white South Africa was that black people were beast-animal because they were not as evolved as white people. They just had to wait another 10,000 years before they could gain the full social status of being white. The "Prospero Complex" is the end result of that belief. From this perspective, one "cannot accept men as they are" and in consequence feels a powerful urge to "dominate" what he feels is inferior to him. This justification is rooted in the fact that this rejection and dominance comes from a "unconscious neurotic tend[ency:]" (107). If it's part of a white man's instinct he can't control, then how can he be blamed for his actions? It's a justification for apartheid in South Africa: keeping beast-like black people in a subordinate and dependent position to the more evolutionary developed white race.

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