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Phenomenology of Blackness, Ideology of Whiteness, and the Predicament of the Antillean in Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks”

The Phenomenology of Blackness

“The Negro is defined by comparison,” says Fanon. “They are always judging themselves in relation to the white Other.” Antilleans, who lack natural cultural values without affirming structures, seek self-validation by comparing themselves to the colonial power of whiteness. This force marginalizes them while presenting itself as the universal ideal.[1] Their perception of their value is dependent on the existence and decrease of the white Other, against whom they establish their own identity and strive to become. According to Fanon, this constant need to compare oneself to others can be seen in things like wanting to show how virtuous one is sexually compared to a white man and the idea that killing or seducing a white woman can heal a black man’s wounded masculinity and give him back power, giving him short-lived feelings of superiority that are disguised as self-worth.[2]. To the Antillean man, masculine self-worth doesn’t come from loving, trusting, and figuring out who he is but from calculating his relationship with the white Other, onto whom he projects fantasies of stealing social power and status that are usually reserved for white people.

Fanon moves the focus from the psychology of individuals to the idea that Antillean society is neurotic because these neurotic traits are common in the people who live there. Criticizing popular ideas that are based on Adler’s theory of individual psychology, Fanon outlines that the Antillean quest for superiority doesn’t show up as individual neurosis but as a group social neurosis that is deeply rooted in sociocultural conditioning.[3]. Antillean society teaches its people through its institutions how to describe themselves by comparing themselves to the white Other, who stands for imagined social dominance. This makes neurotic comparing thoughts a regular part of racial identities. This deep-seated neurosis is not caused by bad personality traits or cognitive flaws but by the way Antillean society was built under the racialized social order that France imposed as a colony. In this paradigm shift, Fanon disagrees with the common belief that Black people are mentally internalizing white superiority. Instead, he says that the real cause of this collective neurosis is the oppressive and dehumanizing environments created by systematic racism.

As usual for Fanon, he digs deeper into philosophical questions to find out if the Antilleans’ group neurosis comes from their souls (human nature) or from the way they were socialized under oppressive colonial racial hierarchies. Even though Fanon’s writing is about the mind of the individual and the mind of the group, he suggests that environments shape human awareness by creating ideas of self in marginalized groups through socialization processes.[4]If Antillean society causes neurosis by slowly instilling ideas of white superiority in the Antillean mind through years of conditioning in places like schools, hospitals, and government offices that uphold and reinforce racial hierarchies, then changing those social conditions is needed to free minds that are psychologically stuck in feelings of inferiority. In this way, Fanon sets the stage for his later works that focus on political change by saying that societal structures, not personal psychological flaws, are the leading causes of internalized racial inferiority complexes.

Fanon’s phenomenological exploration uncovers the depths of psychological trauma and existential crises of identity perpetrated by broader processes of racialized group dehumanization in society and colonialism.[5]. Though his primary focus is on the Antillean psyche, his insights into the traumatic effects of socially constructed racial hierarchies, collective social neurosis linked to internalized inferiority complexes, and the resultant perpetual, often unconscious quest for self-validation in marginalized populations remain profoundly relevant for all groups subjected to systemic racism. Fanon emphasizes the need for revolutionary overhaul and reconstruction of racialized societies on more equitable grounds by positioning comparative valuation and internalized inferiority as products of oppressive systems purposefully designed to dominate marginalized racial groups rather than inherent individual traits or cognitive deficiencies in those groups—a call to radical action that he explores in greater depth through revolutionary theory in later works.

To summarize, Fanon uncovers the creeping crises of internalized inferiority complexes within colonized subjects’ minds wreaked by oppressive regimes through a grim psychological prism assessing colonialism’s existential repercussions on conceptions of selfhood and identity. “The Phenomenology of Blackness” is an early example of Fanon’s important work in creating postcolonial theory, breaking down colonized minds, and calling for radical social and political change as the only way to fix the psychological and structural damage caused by dehumanization. His profound insights are still needed to fully grasp the horrifying psychological effects of racial construction on disadvantaged groups, as well as the radical ways that people can be healed and systems that cause identity crises and group social neurosis in disadvantaged groups to be taken apart.

Ideology of Whiteness

Fanson’s research shows how the idea of whiteness affects people’s minds and society in a racialized setting. His study of how Antillean constantly compares himself to the white Other creates an inner feeling of being less desirable. One way this shows up is a preoccupation with self-image and a distorted ego ideal, as Antillean always tries to get approval from the supposed better race but cannot.[6]Fanson shows how Antillean sees himself through the lens of the myth of white dominance, which has deeply harmful effects on his identity and self-perception. This Antillean figures out how valuable he is by comparing himself to an impossible white ideal.[7] Continuously judging himself against racist standards creates deep feelings of shame and self-doubt, which changes how he sees himself and how he forms his identity. Finding approval from white people becomes an impossible goal for him, trapping him in a loop of internalized oppression and damaging racial identity.

Furthermore, Fanon shows how the effects of slavery, colonialism, and other forms of past oppression have left African Americans with a deep-seated sense of inferiority. Following centuries of being dominated and dehumanized, the Negro struggles with scars that have been internalized and affect his sense of self-worth and humanity. A deep-seated desire for the white world to finally see and acknowledge his worth is hidden behind defense mechanisms like dominance complexes. Throughout history, Fanon shows how racial wounding still affects the black man, shaping his search for recognition and changing how he sees himself in the process. Negroes have deep psychological scars from being treated as property, as less than human, and as racially inferior for generations. These scars show up as self-hatred and low self-worth. To keep his fragile pride intact, the black man may put on a show of racial superiority. Although this is his way of protecting himself, it doesn’t hide the fact that he still hurts and wants the white world to see him as usual after centuries of rejection.

Additionally, Fanon points out how the white man’s role as master completely differs from Hegel’s dialectic based on reciprocity. In this case, the white man judges the black man as less important than himself, taking away his freedom of thought and empathy.[8]After this, the Negro relies on the white boss to tell him he is valuable instead of doing it himself. The racial hierarchy is strengthened by the complete lack of reciprocity, which keeps the black person from shaping his own identity and reality through real fights. It makes him always fit into a picture of himself that the white world has made up. Hegel’s idea is that both sides recognize the humanity in the other person, but the white master sees himself as better than the enslaved Black person by seeing the enslaved Black person as less critical.[9]. The black man doesn’t have the chance to stand up for himself on his own. Instead, the enslaved Black person still needs the white master’s approval to feel like they have worth and are a person. This keeps him from making his own decisions and keeps him stuck in an identity of weakness that white racism has created.

Moreover, Fanon looks at the complicated mind of a formerly enslaved person who did not have to fight for his freedom. Freedom is given by the white master instead of being fought for with blood and pain. Because they don’t know how much freedom really costs, formerly enslaved people still count on the white world to give them meaning and worth. He keeps looking for white approval instead of finding independence. So, freedom in name only is not enough to truly free people from the chains of race dependence and wounding. When a white master gives freedom to a formerly enslaved person without making them work for it, the formerly enslaved person does not understand or own that freedom. So, instead of finding freedom, he keeps looking for white acceptance. He is still stuck in a hurt racial identity and needs white people to recognize him. He has not reached the freedom of giving up things and fighting back.

In the end, Fanon’s insights show how the racial order hurts the Antillean/Negro mind and keeps him stuck in a never-ending search for acceptance from the white world. This recognition is always risky because it comes from the same systems that don’t see him as human. Fanon shows how the idea of whiteness distorts reality and gets in the way of the real fight for freedom, which means defying your oppressor instead of looking for approval from them. Then the Antillean or Negro can claim to be human and have a sense of self-awareness. The Antillean/Negro mind has been deeply damaged by white dominance, forcing him to always look for validation of his worth in the white world, which has so cruelly rejected his humanity. Realizing this, however, only gives a false sense of freedom because it comes from the same racist structures that make this search necessary in the first place. For genuine self-determination, the Antillean or Negro must reject this need for white approval and instead find freedom through struggle.

The Predicament of the Antillean

Recognition and Liberation: Fanon says that the Antillean’s primary goal is to be recognized, and they are always looking for approval from the white Other, whom they use to describe themselves. The formerly enslaved person, on the other hand, was just told by the white master that she was free; she hadn’t even tried to get it. For Antilleans, this given freedom doesn’t mean anything and gives them no power. Because they don’t have the life-threatening conflict that Hegel says makes self-consciousness possible, they are still mentally tied to the dominant colonial force that used to decide their worth.[10] Since they do not have a strong sense of who they are, freedom becomes an empty shell that they try to fill with unattainable white approval.

Additionally, Antillean needs a sense of freedom from claiming it as one’s hard-won right. Instead, they are seen as free without having fought for it. In contrast to the Hegelian bondsman, whose work changes his world and gives him self-certainty, the Antillean enslaved person, who is only told “You are free,” does not have any work or being that can help him become self-aware and free.[11] He is still stuck in his assigned unfree positionality, even though he is legally free. He still seeks the master’s approval to validate his disputed humanity. Instead of moving between two worlds, he has created, through his choices and risks, the Antillean slides from one bound position to another. This given freedom doesn’t change the person’s mind meaningfully out of contempt.

Unbearable Situation for the French Negro: This existential purgatory creates an unbearable situation for the French Negro because he lacks frames of reference or resistance to express his identity and find purpose. Without accurate white recognition of his equal humanity or brave black resistance against dehumanization, the French Negro doesn’t have a sense of who he is. He desperately tries to find resistance that validates his existence as a wrestling self-consciousness. Still, all he finds is white paternalism or indifference, which stops him from existing even though the law says he does. Being conceptually free and concretely dominated at the same time, with no clear way to say otherwise, leads to a schizophrenic splitting. The French black man is left to constantly prove himself against himself in a never-ending game of self-biting. He is always off-balance and can’t move forward.

For example, the American Negro fights for civil rights and self-determination, and they are involved in real struggles for state approval and freedom through legal validation. In contrast to the French Negro, who was seen as less critical by white society and then given equality without any fundamental rights or power, the American Negro fights for minor signs of citizenship and personhood that are being denied him because of flaws in America’s democracy ideology. As a result of hard-won court wins and new laws, the American Negro changes by constantly fighting institutions until they give in and recognize him. It’s easier to understand the daily fight for freedom after each protest and death. Unfortunately, the French Negro doesn’t have any formal tools that can force white people to recognize his equal worth. For example, the American Negro feels the pain of not having freedom, while the French Negro feels the pain of not being able to see that he does not have it.

Furthermore, Fanon metaphorically represents the Martinican as a crucified man, underlining the cultural environment’s importance to the individual. Social factors pull and quarter the Martinians’ identity, contributing to isolation and sterility. The metaphor depicts Antillean’s battle for recognition as the cultural context demands conformity and maintains a hierarchical structure. Fanon highlights how cultural factors form and distort identity by comparing the Martinican to a crucified man. The opposing pulls of white supremacist ideas and black racial consciousness shatter Martinican identity, producing isolation and helplessness. The crucifix metaphor captures the Antillean longing for white society’s unachievable acknowledgment.

Fanon’s Personal Connection to the Predicament

Fanon is a Black intellect from Martinique, so he knows much about the Antillean mind and situation. As a professional with a lot of education who studies European philosophical traditions, Fanon also gets away from the neurotic thought he analyzes[12]. Early works by Fanon already deal with issues of race and recognition, which are influenced by his experiences of going to school in a colony and serving in the military. Through “Black Skin, White Masks,” Fanon combines phenomenology with a psychology study of race. As his ideas changed, he became more interested in how colonialism affected people’s minds. This was probably because of the racism he faced while studying in France.

There are clear connections between Fanon’s life and the situation in Antillean. Fanon, like the Antillean, was educated in a French colony and dealt with a culture dominated by white people. Moving to France and working in Algeria put Fanon at risk of being pushed to the edges as the colored “other.” Fanon also had to figure out how to merge his Blackness with European ideas. However, Fanon wants to be labeled by more than just colonial structures. He is a philosopher, a psychiatrist, and a revolutionary. Instead, he changes the way people talk about racism and oppression.

Fanon is an intellect who achieves critical distance and stays away from determinism. In contrast to the Antillean subject, Fanon claims the power to speak out against institutional racism and push for revolutionary change.[13]He gets over his feelings of weakness to develop a sharp anti-colonial theory. Finally, Fanon changes the story by doing new research showing how psychology, race, and resistance are connected. In his groundbreaking study of the Antillean state, he plays both the subject and the actor, the insider and the outsider.


Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks” is a sharp look at the psychology of race under colonial rule. It does this through his exploration of what it means to be black, his criticism of white philosophy, and his portrayal of the situation in the Antilleans. Fanon shows how societies based on white power hurt marginalized groups like Antilleans deeply psychologically and make them do bad things to feel accepted. However, Fanon goes beyond the limits of internalized racial inferiority through his groundbreaking research and action, even though he lives in the world he writes about. Fanon proudly takes back control of her life as a Black intellectual instead of giving in to neurotic comparisons or looking for approval from structures that oppress her. His groundbreaking ideas about race, revolution, and how society needs to change to heal minds that generations of dehumanization have scarred help the fight for independence and freedom. Fanon gives us a unique look into the existential effects of racism and shows us how to recover our identity, power, and humanity when we are racialized. His phenomenological insights are still crucial for understanding race and oppression in the postcolonial age and beyond.


Ayling, Pere. “Frantz Fanon: Whiteness, Colonialism and the Colonial Habitus.” Distinction, Exclusivity and Whiteness, 2019, 31–43.

Azzedine Haddour. “Fanon and Hegel: The Dialectic, the Phenomenology of Race, and Decolonization.” Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism, January 1, 2021, 173–99.

Fanon, Frantz. “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952.

KAYA, İrfan. “Hegel’in Diyalektiği ve Fanon’un Tanınma Mücadelesi: Siyah Derilinin Beyaz Maskesi Ya Da İçselleştirilmiş Oryantalizm.” ULUM 3, no. 2 (December 31, 2020): 279–96.

Laubscher, Leswin, Derek Hook, and Miraj U Desai. Fanon, Phenomenology, and Psychology. Routledge, 2021.

Lee, Christopher J. “Frantz Fanon.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, July 30, 2020.

Mertania, Yanggi, and Dina Amelia. “Black Skin White Mask: Hybrid Identity of the Main Character as Depicted in Tagore’s the Home and the World.” Linguistics and Literature Journal 1, no. 1 (June 29, 2020): 7–12.

White, Alexandre I. R. “Who Can Lead the Revolution?: Re-Thinking Anticolonial Revolutionary Consciousness through Frantz Fanon and Pierre Bourdieu.” Theory and Society, June 26, 2021.

[1] Frantz Fanon, “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952,

[2] Frantz Fanon, “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952,

[3] Yanggi Mertania and Dina Amelia, “Black Skin White Mask: Hybrid Identity of the Main Character as Depicted in Tagore’s the Home and the World,” Linguistics and Literature Journal 1, no. 1 (June 29, 2020): 7–12,

[4] Leswin Laubscher, Derek Hook, and Miraj U Desai, Fanon, Phenomenology, and Psychology (Routledge, 2021).

[5] Frantz Fanon, “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952,

[6] Pere Ayling, “Frantz Fanon: Whiteness, Colonialism and the Colonial Habitus,” Distinction, Exclusivity and Whiteness, 2019, 31–43,

[7] Frantz Fanon, “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952,

[8] Azzedine Haddour, “Fanon and Hegel: The Dialectic, the Phenomenology of Race, and Decolonization,” Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism, January 1, 2021, 173–99,

[9] İrfan KAYA, “Hegel’in Diyalektiği ve Fanon’un Tanınma Mücadelesi: Siyah Derilinin Beyaz Maskesi Ya Da İçselleştirilmiş Oryantalizm,” ULUM 3, no. 2 (December 31, 2020): 279–96,

[10] Azzedine Haddour, “Fanon and Hegel: The Dialectic, the Phenomenology of Race, and Decolonization,” Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism, January 1, 2021, 173–99,

[11] Frantz Fanon, “BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS,” 1952,

[12] Christopher J. Lee, “Frantz Fanon,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, July 30, 2020,

[13] Alexandre I. R. White, “Who Can Lead the Revolution?: Re-Thinking Anticolonial Revolutionary Consciousness through Frantz Fanon and Pierre Bourdieu,” Theory and Society, June 26, 2021,


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