A Brief Look at the Thoughts of Frantz Fanon Essay

A Brief Look at the Thoughts of Frantz Fanon Essay

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Frantz Fanon grew up in a well off family in French colonial Martinique. He was schooled in France and became a psychiatrist. After volunteering for the free French army during the Second World War, Fanon spent a number of years in the French colony of Algeria before and during the revolution (Zaidi). Because of his life and education, Fanon had a unique perspective to criticize and deconstruct colonialism and decolonization. Using a Marxist lens, he theorized that because colonies were created and maintained in violence, that a colony could only decolonize through violence. He saw violence as the best means to throw off the false consciousness of colonialism and envisioned a brotherhood or comradeship of free and equal people. It is Fanon’s similarity with Martin Luther King, Jr. that is most interesting. In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King makes many of the same arguments as Fanon, but proposes a better solution revolving around justice. Fanon’s obsession with violence it at the centre of his argument, however non-violent direct action, according to King, would be a better way to achieve freedom and equality because ultimately unjust action does not bring about justice.

Fanon start off his argument with describing how colonialism and decolonization are violent affairs. He describes the colonized and colonizer as old adversaries whose first meeting was rooted in violence and continued relationship was sustained at the point of a gun (Fanon, p. 2). He goes on to state that the colonized person is a fabricated person created by the colonizer and that the colonizer validates themselves, via wealth, through the colonial relationship. Decolonization, therefore, is the destruction of these fabrications and the liberation of ...


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...nly by bringing these issues of injustice to the fore and creating a tension around it, can the space be created for understanding and change (King, p. 172).

The role of violence in the fight against injustice is a tricky one. If an oppressor is willing to use violence to maintain control should not the oppressed use violence to achieve liberation? Franz Fanon would argue that the pent up anger and frustration must be released in violent action to tear down the oppressor’s regime. However, there is a better way and that is through non-violence and understanding that Martin Luther King, Jr. champions. Only through creating tension around injustice via non-violent direct action can the conversation begin around mutual understanding and justice. It is this justice achieved through non-violent means that will last as violent action is ultimately unjust in nature.

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