Critical Black Studies Reader

by Rochelle Brock (Volume editor) Dara Nix-Stevenson (Volume editor) Paul Chamness Miller (Volume editor)
©2017 Textbook XIV, 282 Pages


The Critical Black Studies Reader is a ground-breaking volume whose aim is to criticalize and reenvision Black Studies through a critical lens. The book not only stretches the boundaries of knowledge and understanding of issues critical to the Black experience, it creates a theoretical grounding that is intersectional in its approach. Our notion of Black Studies is neither singularly grounded in African American Studies nor on traditional notions of the Black experience. Though situated work in this field has historically
grappled with the question of «where are we?» in Black Studies, this volume offers the reader a type of criticalization that has not occurred to this point. While the volume includes seminal works by authors in the field, as a critical endeavor, the editors have also included pieces that address the political issues that intersect with – among others –
power, race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, place, and economics.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Critical Black Studies Reader
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Part 1 Theories of Critical Black Studies
  • Introduction
  • 1. Remarks on Frantz Fanon’s Thought: Deconstructing “White Mythologies” (Domenica Maviglia)
  • Africa Seen from Martinique: Frantz Fanon’s Biographical Portrait
  • The Evils of Colonialism: Oppression, Alienation, Racism, and Dehumanization
  • Deconstructing “White Mythologies”
  • References
  • 2. Nurturing Cultural Competence While Facilitating the Developmental Progression of the Cognitive Lens (Rinnel Atherton / Alexander Hines)
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Methods
  • Participants
  • Materials
  • Procedure
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References
  • 3. Transnationalism: Competing Definitions, Individual Agency in an Age of Globalization, and Research Trends (G. Sue Kasun)
  • Introduction
  • Definitions and History of Transnationalism
  • Coming to Terms: Diaspora and Transnationalism
  • Globalization and the Subaltern’s Agency
  • Trends of Empirical Research in Transnationalism
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 4. The New Face of Humanitarian Intervention and Arab-African Recolonization (Reynaldo Anderson / D. L. Stephenson)
  • References
  • 5. Decolonizing the Black Male Body: An Anticolonial Perspective (Pierre W. Orelus)
  • Tracing Back the Colonial Legacy: A Historical Overview
  • Connecting the Dots: Black Masculinity, White Hegemony, and Institutional Racism
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part 2 Sociopolitical and Cultural Aesthetics in Black Studies
  • Introduction
  • 6. Black Aesthetics, Fiction, and Future: Discontent While Viewing the Disinterest (Roymieco A. Carter / Leila E. Villaverde)
  • Stepping Back and Here
  • Method Forward
  • The “Real” in Galactic Retrograde
  • Once upon a time called, “Now” … Once upon a time called, “Right Now”—Parliament, 1975
  • Absorption Identified as Recurrence Intervals
  • New Galaxies
  • Notes
  • References
  • 7. Legba, Black Studies, and Critical White Studies: Transforming Critical Thinking at the Crossroads (John L. Jackson / Toni King)
  • Introduction and Background
  • Critical White Studies
  • Data Collection
  • A Typology of White Student Resistance in the Black Studies Classroom
  • Academic Legitimacy Resistance
  • Cultural Centrality Resistance
  • Overload Resistance
  • “Diversity” Resistance
  • Responding to Student Resistance: Legba as Signifier in Black Studies
  • Subjecting Academic Legitimacy to Subject Positioning
  • Decentering Cultural Centrality Through Dialogue
  • Unloading Cultural Overload
  • Replacing Diversity with an Interrogation of Whiteness
  • Pedagogical Implications for the Intersection of Black Studies and White Studies
  • Note
  • References
  • 8. “Burn Hollywood Burn”: The Political Economy of Degradation Through the Commodification of Representation (Brian Lozenski)
  • I smell a riot goin’ on!
  • First they’re guilty, now they’re gone
  • There’s nothing that the Black [wo]man could use to earn
  • All this news and views are beneath me
  • Fear of a Black Planet
  • Notes
  • References
  • 9. The Beauty of Burden: Cultural Aesthetics of Black Women Writers and Poets (Tammie Jenkins)
  • Introduction
  • Mother Tongue … Daughter’s Ears
  • The Bluest Eye
  • For colored girls
  • My Story Is Your Story … My Story Is Your Story
  • Why I Ain’t a Woman, Yet?
  • Epilogue
  • References
  • 10. Racial Priming in the Black Press (Ben LaPoe / Jas Sullivan)
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Priming
  • Method
  • Findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix 10.1
  • 11. Do You Have to Be White to Be Gifted? The K–12 Experience for High-Ability Black Students (Antonia Szymanski)
  • The Problem
  • Identification
  • Stereotype Threat
  • The Burden of Acting White
  • Teacher Attitudes and Expectations
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 12. Black Studies, Multicontextualism, and the Discourse of “Diversity and Inclusion” (John L. Jackson)
  • Introduction
  • The Emergence and Meaning of Multiculturalism
  • The Politics of Multiculturalism and Diversity
  • A Critique of the Discourse of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Multicontextualism 4: An Alternative to Inclusion Strategies
  • Du Bois and Multicontextualism in Black Studies
  • Multicontextualism and the Discourse of Inclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 13. Reclaiming (Her)Stories: The Feminism and Activism of Frances Jackson Coppin (Faye Spencer Maor)
  • References
  • Part 3 Queer and Transgender Issues in Black Studies
  • Introduction
  • 14. HIV Criminalization: A Continuation of Racial-Sexual Terror Exacted on the Bodies of Black MSM (Tabias O. Wilson)
  • Introduction
  • Controlling Images of Black Men and Comportment Through Violence
  • The Myth of the Down Low
  • Pathologizing HIV
  • The Road to HIV Criminalization
  • Criminalization, Race, and Sexuality
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 15. An African American’s Reflections Through Erotic Mythology (Nwachi Tafari)
  • Introduction
  • Critical Reflections on Personal and Cultural Eroticism: African American Freedom
  • Body
  • Culture
  • Emotionally Significant Personal History
  • Transpersonal Experience
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 16. Masculinity and the Black Man in a Heteronormative World (Michael A. Brown / Paul Chamness Miller)
  • Introduction
  • Vignette
  • In the Spirit
  • Self-Reflection on the Vignette
  • Black Homophobia
  • Religious Repudiation
  • Black and White Attitudinal Differences Toward Homosexuals
  • The Plight of the Black Homosexual Male
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 17. “Passing for White, Passing for Man”: Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man as Transgender Narrative (C. Riley Snorton)
  • Ex- as Sliding Signifier: Charting the Sites of Identification
  • Melancholia, Hysteria, and the Trauma of Transfixion
  • Critiques of Afro-modernity
  • Notes
  • References
  • 18. Pedagogy and the Sista’ Professor: Teaching Black Queer Feminist Studies Through the Self (Mel Michelle Lewis)
  • The Sista’ Professor Speaks
  • Identity Politics, Essentialism, and Performative Pedagogy
  • Risk/risqué: The Sexualization of the Classroom
  • An Uncanny Resemblance: Authenticity, Authority, and Asserting the Other as Self
  • Conclusion: My Performance of a Black Queer Feminist Pedagogy
  • References
  • Part 4 Activism and Resistance in Black Studies: Past, Present, Future
  • Introduction
  • 19. When the Church Sins: The Violence of Silence (Linda A. Wiggins)
  • Introduction
  • Racism and the Racialization of Social Issues
  • Contributing Factors to Police Brutality
  • Law Enforcement Testimonials: Is Racism a Factor?
  • Officer #1—A New York City Corrections Officer of 28 Years
  • Officer #2—A New Jersey Officer of 12 Years and Firearms Instructor
  • Officer #3—A New Jersey Detective of 10 Years
  • Racism and Christianity
  • Pastor Testimonials: The Silence of the Church
  • Pastor A. Craig Dunn—First Baptist Church, Madison, New Jersey
  • Pastor Hodari S. Williams—Elmwood United Presbyterian Church, West Orange, New Jersey
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 20. “Yes! Black folks tan too!” Resistance Recognized Through the Stories of a Black Beach Community (Hope Jackson)
  • Note
  • References
  • 21. The Kinara Speaks: Kwanzaa as an Expression of Activism and Resistance in the City of Greensboro (Dawn N. Hicks Tafari / Tonya Poole)
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Methodology
  • Kwanzaa Comes to Town: The Nguzo Saba Becomes a Way of Life
  • Kwanzaa Makes Its Mark: Activism and Resistance in Greensboro
  • Kwanzaa as a Source of Inspiration: Healing through Practice
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 22. Speaking Back to What’s Black: Using Critical Family History and Autoethnography Against That Lying Old Jim Crow (Sherick Hughes)
  • Introduction
  • Methodological Framework: Critical Family History and Autoethnography
  • Critical Family History
  • Autoethnography
  • Episode 1: That’s Not My Daddy
  • Finding an Appropriate Context
  • Finding Family Liaisons
  • Anticipating Going Back to the Evidence and New Searches for Contextual Information
  • Concluding Thoughts on Episode 1
  • Episode 2: Black People Don’t Float, Black People Don’t Swim … Really?
  • Revisiting the Local Libraries
  • Revisiting the Local Museum
  • Listening for Understanding, Not Just to Reply
  • Concluding Thoughts on Episode 2
  • Concluding Thoughts for Episodes 1 and 2
  • References
  • 23. Beyond Charisma: Critiquing the Embedded Imaginary of Black Leadership in Hip Hop and Black Social Movements (Andreana Clay)
  • Hip Hop’s Radical Leaders
  • Black Women Matter: Fighting for Black Lives
  • References
  • 24. The Epistemological Work of Black Teachers: Tilling the Fertile Soil of Intellectual Activism (Conra D. Gist)
  • Theorizing the Black Teacher
  • The Epistemological Work of Black Teachers
  • A Black Teacher Testimony
  • Stage 1: Testimony Development
  • Tilling the Soil
  • Planting the Seed
  • Cultivating the Soil
  • Awaiting the Harvest
  • Stage 2: Testimony Analysis
  • Stage 3: Action—The Potent Possibility of Intellectual Activism
  • References
  • 25. Village Pedagogy: Empowering African American Students to Be Activists (Shuntay Z. McCoy / Tiffany G. B. Packer)
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Understanding Village Pedagogy Through Critical Race Theory
  • Counternarratives: Resistance Through Village Pedagogy
  • Strategies for Engaging in Village Pedagogy
  • References
  • 26. The Sting of a WASP: An Autoethnographic Account of a Black Administrator in Student Affairs (Nathan Stephens)
  • Introduction
  • It’s a Different World
  • Conceptual Framework
  • Central Tenets of Critical Race Theory
  • Macrostructural Explanations
  • Methodology
  • Data
  • Vignette: Son of Bin Laden
  • A Tale of Two Homecomings
  • Discussion
  • References
  • 27. From Slavery to SlutWalk: Brown Bodies and the Misguided Politics of Sexual Agency (Emelyn A. dela Peña / Jollene Levid / Barbra Ramos)
  • Introduction
  • Sex-Positive Feminism
  • SlutWalk
  • Feminism Is More than Sexual Agency
  • References
  • 28. What Can We Learn from the SNCC and Civil Rights in Mississippi? (Rochelle Brock)
  • The Citizens’ Council: Defining Race and Segregation in Mississippi
  • Empowering the People
  • The End
  • References
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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Black Studies have come a long way since it became an institutional area of academic study in 1968. Although some of the forefathers of Black Studies, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and John Henrik Clark, made their mark on the study of Black life long before academia began to recognize the worthiness of such studies at predominantly White universities, Black Studies lived and was advanced by scholars trained in the social sciences and humanities. During its evolution, varying theoretical approaches to Black Studies emerged and some of those are represented in this text. To be sure, the essays contained here serve to accurately capture the vision of Black Studies as it stands in the twenty-first century.

Attention to Africana studies, or the comparative study of the people of Africa and the diaspora, has emerged as a major trend among Black Studies in the United States. Therefore, the authors of part 1, “Theories of Critical Black Studies,” represent some of the voices that are critical to our understanding of where we are in this particular moment. Placing Black Studies within a global context, Domenica Maviglia’s essay on Frantz Fanon, Rinnel Atherton, and Alexander Hines on nurturing cultural competence, G. Sue Kasun’s attention to transnationalism, Orelus’s engagement with postcolonial studies, and D. L. Stephenson and Reynaldo Anderson’s essay on Arab-Africans add to the ongoing critical discussions on the significance of Black life around the world. Part 1 invites readers to use a historical lens to look beyond the present to the future of Black Studies.

It may be said that Black Studies scholars, many of whom are/were activists, always had/have their finger on the pulse of working-class and middle-class America. Yet, diverse experiences have not always been welcomed. Black Studies depends on including all voices of Black life. Diversity is essential. Black gender and sexuality studies have found a place in Black Studies and, therefore, are a growing area of critical inquiry. While Black feminist studies have been developing since the late 1970s and Black masculinity studies began to prominently emerge in the late 1990s, Black Studies still tended to be somewhat conservative in its approaches. Pierre W. Orelus, Faye Spencer Maor, Michael A. Brown, Paul Chamness Miller, Tammie Jenkins, and Mel Michelle Lewis make informative contributions to ← xi | xii → our understanding of historical and contemporary issues related to gender and race. Scholars such as E. Patrick Johnson and Mae Henderson, who published an anthology on Black Queer Studies (2005), opened a much-needed space for Lewis’s essay on teaching Black Queer Studies. These scholars remind readers that approaches to teaching the intersections between queer identity and race are important for contemporary classroom discussions.

Further, the location of the body as erotic as visited in Emelyn A. dela Peña, Jollene Levid, and Barbra Ramos’s and Hope Jackson’s essays is in conversation with the idea of criminalization and wellness as pressed in Tabias Wilson’s essay. Mutilated Black bodies, as in the cases of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, have sparked social movements in the forms of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement, respectively. Motivated by a desire, if not an absolute need, for justice and fairness, academia, namely Black Studies scholars, were called to action in the classroom. It cannot be lost on readers that protests that occurred in the 1960s, which paralleled the Black Arts Movement and Black Power Movements, would later serve as models for the University of Missouri or Mizzou Protests in the fall of 2015, which resulted in students’ demands for new allocations of resources toward diversity initiatives, including the hiring of new faculty who could teach Black Studies or Ethnic Studies courses.

This anthology recognizes teaching as a salient part of Black Studies. Approaches to teaching as well as studies on student and faculty experiences as offered by Shuntay Z. McCoy and Tiffany Packer give readers a sense of where Black Studies is as an academic practice. Interactions in the classroom, at times, reveal much about societal experiences. Nathan Stephens complements these essays with his “Autoethnographic Account.”

Brock, Nix-Stevenson, and Miller have assembled a comprehensive group of scholars with diverse perspectives on Black Studies. Readers will certainly come away informed and engaged.

Tara Green

Professor and Director, African American and African Diaspora Studies Program

University of North Carolina, Greensboro

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Theories of Critical Black Studies

| 3 →


Part 1 offers perspectives on critical Black Studies that ground the Black experience, offers fresh ideas and concepts to the study of the Black experience, and offers strategical or social change theories. Thus, theoretical perspectives are offered that serve not only African American Studies but also the broader areas of Ethnic, Women and Gender, and Cultural Studies.

Drawing from postcolonial frameworks, in chapter 1, “Remarks on Frantz Fanon’s Thought: Deconstructing ‘White Mythologies,’ Domenica Maviglia offers fresh insights through her examination of Fanon’s work. Her critique reminds us why Fanon’s theories of colonial oppression, racism, and alienation are more relevant today than when initially theorized.

In chapter 2, “Nurturing Cultural Competence While Facilitating the Developmental Progression of the Cognitive Lens,” Alexander Hines and Rinnel Atherton use the narratives of preservice teachers to examine the relationship between intentional pedagogy, centered on nurturing cultural competencies to support the ability to engage in culturally responsive pedagogy. Their research ultimately reveals that teacher education programs, especially given the changing demographics of America, need to develop curricula that address cultural ways of knowing and other cultural issues that support educators becoming culturally competent practitioners.

In chapter 3, “Transnationalism: Competing Definitions, Individual Agency in an Age of Globalization, and Research Trends,” G. Sue Kasun defines transnationalism as inherently unbordered social practices in the world among structures that have governing power over those practices. She then situates the definition among complementary and competing ideas about the concept. Finally, Kasun contextualizes the definition by exploring research that claims transnationalism has existed since the early 1900s, especially through African diaspora writers, including Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois.

In chapter 4, “The New Face of Humanitarian Intervention and Arab-African Recolonization,” Reynaldo Anderson collaborates with D. L. Stephenson to argue that film representations of Black female sexuality can be understood in terms of “everyday pornography” and a “porno-tropics” of sexual representation through an examination of American Oscar-winning films Precious (2009) and Monster’s Ball (2001) and the Oscar-nominated South African film District 9 (2009). ← 3 | 4 →

To conclude part 1, Pierre Orelus, like Maviglia, incorporates postcolonial and critical race frameworks by using data from a previous Black masculinity study conducted in 2010 to examine the ways and the extent to which Black masculinity intersects with the legacy of slavery and colonialism, racism, classism, and White hegemony. Chapter 5, “Decolonizing the Black Male Body,” begins by reviewing and analyzing ways and the degree to which this legacy continues to influence the masculinity of men of African descent, including the manner in which they have performed their maleness.

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Remarks on Frantz Fanon’s Thought

Deconstructing “White Mythologies”

Domenica Maviglia

Africa Seen from Martinique: Frantz Fanon’s Biographical Portrait

To fully understand the standpoint of Frantz Fanon (1925–1961) regarding colonial oppression, alienation, and racism, a few broad brushstrokes of his life’s journey are needed. Fanon was born in Fort-de-France, capital of the French colony of Martinique, from a family of African slave descent. Despite racial discrimination, the situation of Blacks in the Antilles was different to the one in African colonies. In the Antilles, the society was characterized by a well-rooted Black middle class that aspired more to integration than national independency (Zahar, 1970). Average Martiniquans did not aim to free themselves from their White masters but rather to integrate into their society, with the widespread idea of considering themselves Black-skinned French citizens, in contrast with the uncivilized “Blacks” of Africa.

Fanon’s family belonged to this middle class, allowing him to study and obtain his high school diploma in March 1946. During his high school years, Fanon met Aimé Césaire, a professor who strongly influenced Fanon since he provided young Martiniquan intellectuals with the knowledge needed to become aware that it is “a good and beautiful thing to be Blacks” (Fanon 1969, p. 37). At the age of 18, Fanon illegally left Fort-de-France to join the Free French Forces. He was taken in charge by the British Army, and at the end of 1943, he was sent back to Martinique to train with a Gaullist army division. In March 1944, he was moved with his battalion to Casablanca and in August 1945, he joined the ranks of the 6th regiment of the colonial infantry of the First French Army in Provence, taking part in several battles against Germany. In September, Fanon was wounded in a battle at the border with Switzerland and he was decorated for his service. Discharged by the Army, Fanon returned to Martinique, where he received a studentship as a war-wounded and honorable soldier. He decided to study medicine, enrolling at the University of Lyon, where he graduated in 1951. During his years in Lyon, he developed an interest in neuropsychiatry, focusing in particular on the North African syndrome (i.e., the condition characterizing the lives of North African immigrants in France, especially ← 5 | 6 → their psychological disorders). In 1952, he started working in several French hospitals and during this period he published his first book, Black Skin, White Masks.

In July 1953, Fanon specialized in psychiatry and started practicing in Africa. After filing a formal request, he was sent for three years to Blida-Joinville (Algeria) as chef de service of the most important psychiatric hospital in Africa. Here, Fanon had the possibility of applying the social therapy techniques learned from Spanish psychiatrist Tosquelles, deepening his knowledge about life in colonial Algeria by analyzing the life and relationships between colonized and colonists in a rural area placed in the countryside between the big European land proprieties and the depressed agricultural economy of the hinterland. In particular, he put at test the reciprocity of the psychological alterations existing in racial relationships and colonial situations, noticing that colonists (French colonizers and racists in Algeria) subdued colonized Muslims by “educating” them to behaviors that could not be interiorized and by “de-educating” them about their own tradition and lifestyle. Fanon noticed that the more colonists tried to hammer their community lifestyle into the heads of Muslims, the worse their neurosis became. Therefore, in September 1956, during the first gathering of Black writers and artists at the Sorbonne of Paris, in a speech titled Racism and Culture, Fanon argued that his experience at the psychiatric hospital of Blida could not be described as a journey that took patients toward a safe harbor of normality but as an accomplice of the established order to marginalize people in distress. For this reason, he decided to send his letter of resignation to the resident minister, taking a firm stance against French colonialism:

The letter received no immediate reaction, but at the end of the year, Fanon was expelled from Algeria and moved to Paris. In January 1957, he settled in Tunis, where he practiced at the La Manouba clinic. Then, starting from 1958, he worked in the psychiatric ward of the Charles Nicolle polyclinic, devoting a good deal of his time to political activism after joining the newsroom of Résistance Algérinne: Organe de l’Armée et du Front de Libération Nationale (Algerian Resistance: Organization of the Army and the National Front of Liberation). In December 1958, in Accra (Ghana), venue of the first African Peoples Conference, Fanon delivered his first speech as a member of the Algerian delegation, meeting some of the most important leaders of the independence movements and parties of sub-Saharan Africa.

In January 1960, Fanon attended as a member of the Algerian delegation of the second African Peoples Conference in Tunis. Here, he argued for the creation of an international brigade of African volunteers that should lead the charge against French colonialism. The following month, while working as a new permanent representative of the Algerian interim government in Accra, he traveled to Cairo, visiting the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Algerian Republic interim government, in order to take part in a discussion on the guidelines that should drive African politics. In these meetings, Fanon embodied the revolutionary spirit of the open fight against imperialism, leading a relentless charge for independence. He was a Black man, descendant of kidnapped and deported Black men, who came back as a soldier and theorist of African independence (Zahar, p. 12); he loved the idea ← 6 | 7 → of embodying Algeria’s fight, which represented a model for the whole of Africa, and together with his Algerian colleagues he represented politically Algeria’s relationship with Africa.

In the following months, Fanon took part in a series of diplomatic missions in Africa, widening his contacts among government representatives and leaders of freedom movements. At the end of the year, back in Tunis, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Starting from 1961, his activity was focused entirely on writing The Wretched of the Earth (1961), in an effort that saw him working relentlessly, despite the fact that the worst stages of his illness forced him to temporarily suspend his work. That autumn his health took a turn for the worse and he had no choice but to accept being admitted at a clinic in Bethesda, Maryland, where he died on December 6, 1961. In his will, he requested his body to be flown on a special flight to Tunis, where he was buried in Algerian soil by a division of the Freedom National Army.

The Evils of Colonialism: Oppression, Alienation, Racism, and Dehumanization

Fanon’s analysis focuses mainly on psychological and sociopsychological processes and it acquires a crucial importance in the study of the phenomena related to colonialism and neocolonialism. His theories, outlined with genuine revolutionary spirit in Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, were strongly affected by the historical, economic, and political conditions of Martinique and Africa.

This Afro-Matiniquan psychiatrist who fought actively against colonialism addressed a wide range of phenomena such as colonialism, alienation, oppression, the mechanisms of domination and dehumanization, racism, and anticolonial violence. As a committed militant always on the side of the “wretched of the Earth,” Fanon wanted to provide a psychological escape from oppression. This enlightening idea is clearly stated in the works of 1952 and 1961, where he defines himself as a deeply wounded man, locked in an “infernal cycle” who, without bearing the arms provided by incontestable truths, understands what it means to be born Black in a world dominated by White Europeans who, through the process of colonialism, inculcate into the minds of millions of individuals sentiments of fear, inferiority, terror, subjugation, desperation, and servility (Césaire, 1955). Besides underlining the structural dependence between motherland and colony, Fanon’s account of the colonial situation explains in detail the interdependence existing behind this structure, as well as the colonists–colonized antagonism (Zahar, 1970).

Fanon’s pragmatic and sharp description highlights the ideological and sociopsychological consequences of colonialism. In the first volume of his Political Essays, Fanon defines colonialism as the military conquest of a national territory and the oppression of a population (1969, pp. 81–82). He eloquently describes the stage on which the colonial play takes place and its two main antagonists, colonists and colonized. The wealth and privileges of the former, explains Fanon, are strictly dependent on the exploitation and impoverishment of the latter, in a permanent state of oppression: “It is the colonist who made and who continues to make the colonised. The colonist derives his truth, that is his wealth, from the colonial system” (1968, p. 4). The supremacy of colonists, legitimized by the supposed inferiority of indigenous people, is recognized by the oppressed through an alienation process. In particular, through Europeanization (i.e., dehumanization), French colonialism led to a sense of uprooting, scattering, confusion, cultural depersonalization, and condemnation of Blacks, causing frustration, compensation phenomena, and psychosomatic illness, products and expression of colonial alienation. This inferiority complex is, according to Fanon (1952), a consequence of a two-faced process: “economic and of interiorisation-epidermalisation” (p. 197). In the economic process, alienation takes place when Blacks fall victim to a system of racial exploitation, as well as the contempt felt by a specific type of civilization that considers itself superior. In the process of interiorization–epidermalization, alienation takes place at an intellectual level (i.e., Blacks see European culture as a means to mark a difference with their own race). In the former process, Fanon identifies what he dubs “negritude,” while the latter triggers he calls “lactification,” which forces Blacks to encode the prejudices and stereotypes of Whites in their relationships. ← 7 | 8 →

Fanon’s analysis focuses precisely on the colonial mentality that portrays Blacks as individuals colonially divided between a socioracial mask that becomes stronger and a cultural mask that fades away; individuals who delegitimize themselves as Blacks, minimize their African past, cut the roots that bind them to a past of slavery, and instead state their “Frenchness” in order to feel like something else or even feel like “the others”: French citizens. Black becomes a counterfeit of White or, in better words, Blacks self-counterfeit as “civilized” Blacks by wearing White masks. Because of the acceptance of this White identity, Blacks are forced to project themselves in the existential universe of Whites, finding themselves locked in an intellectual alienation that leaves no other option but to use the European cultural identity to escape from their supposedly inferior race.

In his analysis of the dehumanization caused by colonial relationships, the Tunisian intellectual Albert Memmi (1979) points out that colonized people exist only in relationship with an ideologically dominant colonist. By accepting their subjugation, colonized people place themselves outside of history, because the colonial system cuts the umbilical cord that bounds Blacks with their inner selves and their culture, alienating them from themselves. The imposition of a European cultural code by Whites leads to a weakening and demeaning of indigenous cultural roots, starting with the colonization of language; linguistic counterfeiting is a clear sign of the acceptance of this inferiority but, simultaneously, it is also an essential tool for progress. Fanon underlines that colonialism levels the behaviors of colonial populations, resketching the geography of their world and establishing linguistic stereotypes. Hence, the cultural and historical identity of colonized people is replaced with a complex of inferiority that recomposes their identity by shaping it in the civilizing nation’s own image and likeness. This process of Frenchification provides Blacks in the Antilles with a behavior potentially open to assimilation, which is socially rewarding and hierarchically codified in social and administrative tasks that strictly intertwine with race. This means that language learning allows Blacks to culturally and sociologically integrate with Whites. Nevertheless, at the core of Fanon’s theory, there is the idea that alienation affects also the personal and sexual relationships of colonized people, who fall in the trap of a legitimizing Manichaeism of racial separation set by a model that states that Whites are superior and Blacks are inferior. It is often easy to hear people talking about Black soul, Black language, Black body, Black sky, Black future, while on the other hand, terms such as White truth, pristine White justice are also widely used. Black is associated with night and darkness, in direct contrast with the White innocence of fairytales. Black symbolizes sin, something despicable. In other words, it embodies the dark side of the soul, a clear form of racism since these terms are framed in an oppressing system that attacks the cultural values, traditions, and customs of oppressed populations. In addition, deconstruction and cultural depersonalization cause stratification and individual mortification, fueling apathy and a supposed respect of tradition managed with sadist contempt, which induces an alienation fed by the denigration of traditional lifestyles.

According to Fanon, once we have the diagnosis, it is time to devise a treatment. He calls neurosis the phenomenon causing so much suffering among Blacks and, to help them, he urges Blacks to move beyond the color of their skin and the White dreams linked to the negative connotation of their “negritude,” toward a world where Whites and Blacks mutually recognize each other in a shared endeavor. Therefore, only by making Blacks aware of this Black unconsciousness, it is possible to devise the enhancement of difference; négritude is the first step toward the acknowledgment of Black authenticity and the rediscovery of Black history, in order to use it against oppression. The only escape hatch for alienated colonized people is to become fully aware of this situation, involving all those exploited by a colonialism that looks at them as members of an inferior race. Blacks must break the symbolic system of violence of colonists, because it ideologically promotes an ontological inequality among individuals. According to Fanon’s view, negritude represents simply a dialectic stage (a denial of a denial, an indispensable empowerment moment. This puts people in front of a common consciousness that breaks the dominant axioms of a colonial society that imposes domination, subordination relationships, stereotypes, and an alienating taming process. ← 8 | 9 →

Therefore, the revolution against colonial violence is outlined as a struggle against reformism and corruption to dismantle the colonial system. The recovery of individual identity takes place on the road of a long political journey; by rebelling, colonized people provide a national scope to their struggle, claiming their “Algerinity” vis-à-vis the racial hurdles imposed by colonial domination, and rejecting assimilation and integration in the name of national independence and the recovery of a common identity. The anticolonial struggle calls upon people to fight for their independence, triggering a process of cultural revival. Through his sociopsychological analysis, Fanon charts the path connecting the violence of colonists to the antiviolence and anticolonial violence of colonized people, identifying the breaking point that divides the oppressing colonial system and the offensive of colonized people against the violence of rulers through an empowering counterviolence that breaks the repressive cycle of the ruling system and, with it, the basic components of alienation. In other words, anticolonial violence rejects the models imposed by imperialism, the standardization of the dominant European model that indigenous African middle classes follow.

According to Fanon, the subjected and alienated Africa must reject the historical abuse of colonialism without ignoring the values of European culture, but instead reject them because of the role they played in Africa in the creation of injustice, misery, and humiliation. In his view, this is even truer since Europe does not represent the privileged cultural cradle of mankind. Through the works of Fanon shines the idea that the hope generated in countries struggling for their freedom will give birth to a “renewal manifesto” that might provide an original input to the progress of civilization and the blossoming of a “new man”; this is not a “global man” but rather a “man belonging to a new species” (Fanon 1961, pp. 3–60). Fanon (1969) offers this ideological perspective of political and human palingenesis, projecting universally his ideas on the colonial liberation struggle.

The centrality of the violence on oppressed people is clear, while the rural masses exploited by colonists are seen as the main reservoir of human and political potential to carry out an anti-imperialist liberation struggle.

Deconstructing “White Mythologies”


XIV, 282
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XIV, 282 pp.

Biographical notes

Rochelle Brock (Volume editor) Dara Nix-Stevenson (Volume editor) Paul Chamness Miller (Volume editor)

Rochelle Brock is Professor and Department Chair of Educational Leadership & Cultural Foundations at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She received her PhD from Pennsylvania State University in curriculum and instruction. Dr. Brock is Series Editor for Black Studies and Critical Thinking with Peter Lang Publishing. Dara Nix-Stevenson is a teacher-scholar-activist who has taught high school biology and environmental science since 1998 at various public and private schools. She received her PhD in cultural foundations from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her research interests reflect stories of identity, autonomy, and resistance. Paul Chamness Miller is Professor of International Liberal Arts in the English for Academic Purposes program at Akita International University in Japan. He received his PhD in curriculum and instruction from Purdue University. Dr. Miller is the editor of the journal Critical Inquiry in Language Studies.


Title: Critical Black Studies Reader
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298 pages