By: Okky Madasari
“Hate is not inborn; it has to be constantly cultivated, to be brought into being, in conflict with more or less recognized guilt complexes. Hate demands existence and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behaviour; in a sense, he has to become hate.” - (Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks)
No one is born hating somebody, some people, certain ethnics or a particular group. No man is given inherent perception of others in their gens right when he or she is dropped to the world. Rather, such a perception is shaped, injected and forced by certain situation that has existed for such a long period of time. That is one of the main ideas from the book written by Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952). The book elaborates how colonialism forms a structure that shapes people’s experiences, minds, behaviour, including prejudice which subsequently produces hatred and acts of hatred.
Fanon develops his arguments by analysing the daily behaviour of black people. He observes the way black people communicate differently to each other and to the white people. Fanon concludes that black people have two dimensions of languages that differs when they communicate to other black people and when they communicate to the white people, who are the colonizers. When communicate to the white, the black people tend to change their accent, hiding the “R” as if it is a big sin if they pronounced it. The “R” is a symbol of uncivilisation.
The feeling or the belief that the blackness is barbaric, uncivilised, and inferior in the world ruled by the white has been internalised within the black as a given reality resulted from agenda of internalisation from colonizers and their ideology within the colonial areas to maintain their rule over their colonies. In Fanon’s words, this value has been skilfully injected to the mind of the black people who do not realise that they have been structurally and systematically moulded to be inferior, and instead accepting the inferiority as a fact, with the whites as a master being natural and necessary to save and bring the blacks to civilisation.
However, this inferiority acceptance is not merely formed by the instillation of values but mainly also a product of the fact that the whites control the economy and economic resources. With the whites being the employers and owners of capital and means of production, it is easy to see why inferiority instillation can be accepted as the blacks can factually see themselves within the structure. The economic control and the exploitation of the resources create the situation where the black people become dependent to the white. Fanon calls this situation as dependency complex of the colonised people.
From the white colonisers’ perspective, the feeling of superiority that put the black on the inferior and dependency position has been part of the process to conquer and exploit the colony; its people and its economic resources. The whites need to instil the values to the blacks and among the whites themselves to keep being accepted as the ruler. The white since the beginning must create the distinction, should treat the black in an unequal way, talking to the black as if the black is their subordinates.
This explains what Fanon says as “Hate is not inborn; it has to be constantly cultivated, to be brought into being and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behaviour.”
The act of hate against black people passes from an individual white to another individiual, from generation to generation. Fanon argues that white family plays central role in passing and preserving this values, becoming an agent of a certain system, in this context the colonialism and racism. When a white kid since the very beginning taught to see black people as a “different one”, dirty, stupid, criminal, and several other negative stereotypes created by the white people, the kids will grow up to be an adult with internalised prejudice and hatred.
Recognising this situation, Fanon clearly call us to have the courage to say that it is the racist who creates his inferior. Fanon’s call is influenced by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s argument on Jewish people, stating that The Jew is one whom other men consider a Jew. It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew.
On the other hand, in black family, the prejudice and hatred are resulted from long-term experiences of racism and superiority of the white people. Fanon illustrated how a black is very possibly when he or she was a kid had been seeing his or her father being beaten or even killed and have been experiencing racism and treated as an inferior being in his or her entire life. The perpetual experiences create trauma which later could be easily triggered by new experiences that are different from the very first experience that caused the trauma. This trauma has been a burden that makes black people maintaining their prejudice and hatred under their inferiority complex and keep acting and talking as the inferior to the white superiority. The blacks compensate their inferiority by imitating whatever the white is practicing as if a person who tries to hide their perceived ugly face behind a perceived white and smooth mask to escape what they believe as humiliation.
It is clearly not easy to cut this vicious cycle of hatred and inferiority of complex internalized by the black people. However, Fanon suggests the idea of Collective Catharsis to break this psychological syndrome. Collective Chatarsis is defined by Fanon as a channel that exist in every society, in every collectivity, through which the forces accumulated in the form of aggression can be released. The catharsis takes form in participating in games, magazines, stories, psychodramas in group therapy – in Fanon’s words, each type of society, of course, requiring its own specific kind of catharsis. In the flip of a coin Fanon shows how the white family using Tarzan, Mickey Mouse, any other stories and myth to maintain their superiority, hatred and racist values among the successive new generations.
Fanon argues that without turning to the idea of collective catharsis and practice it, the black people selects and puts themselves as an object capable of carrying the burden of original sin.
At the end of the day, only the black people can help themselves from the detrimental impacts of colonialism, and what Fanon has done with his ideas and books is only to disturb and wake all of us – not only the black people – to free ourselves from the arsenal complexes of chains that has been developed by the colonial.