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Toward The African Revolution; West Indians and Africans
Submitted by Danielle A. Jefferson on Monday, 12/19/2011, at 2:11 AM
In Frantz Fanon's "West Indians and Africans", Fanon takes an in depth look at the history of the West Indian identity, more specifically, the history of the changing ways that they saw themselves. He opens up by addressing the issue that he sees in the racial discourse around people of the African Diaspora; he believes that it lends no individual credit and gives no room for personal expression by lumping all Negroes under the term "Negro People". By generalizing a race of people that exist across the world with different lived experiences, Fanon believes that we fall short in an attempt to unite a people, and instead, deny the many differences that exist among them. As the essay progresses, Fanon then begins to delve into the complex history of the shift in identity that the West Indian's underwent. Before the war, West Indians did their best to be as removed as possible from being associated with Africans. For the longest while, West Indian's saw themselves as better than the "savages" that existed in Africa, they saw themselves as being black and European, but the term "Negro" was one that was reserved for Africans, whom they believed they were superior to. This perception of themselves began to change years later as a result of three events that occurred successively: The arrival of Cesaire, who sought to re-insert the language of beauty back into blackness, The downfall of France, which for the first time put West Indian's in a position where "in the presence of those men who despised him, began to have misgivings to his values" (Fanon 23), and lastly came Free France, which pushed West Indians into a place where, in the face of ten thousand racists, felt the need to defend themselves, which could not have been done without the help of Cesaire, who was reconstructing the language of blackness, bringing back the virtue of it that was stolen. After the war, the West Indian no longer riveted White Europe, and longed to reap from the rich cultural of Africa, to reconnect to their lost kin and rediscover themselves. To their Dismay, however, they were shunned. The West Indians were served with exactly what they had given Africans years before the war; they were cast away with the same disgust they once gave Africans. Africans resented the West Indians, and then began to see themselves "at last to be the possessors of truth, centuries-old bearers of an incorruptible purity"(Fanon 25). Cesaire played a key role in the changing perceptions West Indians had of themselves; before him West Indians believed themselves to be white, and bleached their black souls with the things of the white man, surrendering the richness and beauty that existed in the history of their ebony skin. Fanon closes the essay saying " It thus seems that the West Indian, after the great white error, is now living in the great black mirage" (Fanon), which then raises the question to the reader of what the great black mirage is. For Fanon, negritude serves as the mirage, in the sense that the desperation that is being felt by black people to connect to an identity and a kin has allowed them to be tricked by negritude, which provides only a false hope, but can never truly quench the thirst for kin.
"Fifteen years before, they said to the Europeans, "Don't pay attention to my black skin, it's the sun that has burned me, my soul is as white as yours". After 1945 they changed their tune. They said to the Africans, "Don't pay attention to my white skin, my soul is as black as yours, and that is what matters"
Fanon, Frantz. West Indians and Africans. 27. Print.