Essay Example About Violence
In Fanon’s “On Violence,” he explores the racially driven relationship between those he calls the “colonized” and the “colonizers,” specifically in the context of the Algerian War. He discusses how the colonizers have a Manichaeism view of the world, seeing everything as black and white and good and evil, with no in between existing. Fanon uses this idea to explain how the racial divide formed and to give cause as to why the colonized must stand up to the colonizers and fight for their independence and equality. Fanon’s interpretations of the Manichaeism view are still relevant to today’s society in that they provide insightful understandings on racial problems and ideas of racial identity by delving into the minds and thought processes of both the colonized and colonizers.
Throughout much of the text, Fanon argues that the colonized must rise up and use violence against the colonizers in order to gain their rightful independence, describing how they already have the will and power to do so but they need to direct it toward action rather than meaningless rituals. What Fanon is talking about is passion and desire, and the colonized have an abundance of it. He asserts that:
The violence which governed the ordering of the colonial world, which tirelessly punctuated the destruction of the indigenous social fabric, and demolished unchecked the systems of reference of the country’s economy, lifestyles, and modes of dress, this same violence will be vindicated and appropriated when, taking history into their own hands, the colonized swarm into the forbidden cities. (“On Violence,” pg. 5-6)
Here, Fanon is proving how the colonized fight is justified because of the wrongs committed against them by the colonizers, and how they have a right to act on their desire to break free from the oppression and take their freedom for themselves. They want a better life for themselves and their families, and in order to gain it, they must stand up against all the abuses that have been committed against them. They have the right mentality to fight for what they want, and now they have to take action.
This idea of passion for fighting for what one believes in, specifically within the contexts of racial issues, is visible in today’s conflicts of immigration across the Mexican border. In late 2018, a thousand strong caravan of migrants from Latin American countries were in route to the US-Mexico border. These migrants were either seeking an escape from their gang-ridden homes or just looking for a better opportunity for their families in America. Though they were aware of the massive opposition present against them crossing the border, they were still determined to travel the 2,500 miles to the border (Migrant caravan: What is it and why does it matter?). They felt they deserved the opportunity to start a new life in America, and they set their minds to trying their hardest to gain it, no matter how many people believed they were not justified to have it. In the same way that the colonized felt they deserved to have better lives like those of the colonizers, these immigrants maintain the notion that they are equally deserving of a chance to be successful and safe as those in America already.
The way people of higher privilege see the minorities of today and assume their thoughts are present in Fanon’s portrayal of how the colonizers interpret how the colonized view them and what they have. Fanon depicts the relationship between the colonized and the colonizers as:
The gaze that the colonized subject casts at the colonist’s sector is a look of lust, a look of envy. Dreams of possession…. The colonized man is an envious man. The colonist is aware of this as he catches the furtive glance, and constantly on his guard, realizes bitterly that: ‘They want to take our place.’ (pg. 5)
The colonizers see the colonized as a threat and believe they should be wary of them, thinking that the colonized want to uproot them and take what is theirs. The negative connotation of the words used to describe the colonized feelings toward the colonizers further emphasizes the thought that the colonized are dangerous. The colonized may look at what the colonizers have and want it, but they do not necessarily want to take it away from the colonizers; instead, they would like to have it for themselves in coexistence with the colonizers. This demonstrates the lack of understanding that occurs between the colonizers and the colonized.
The issue of immigration again demonstrates this limited view that some people have on immigrants. There are approximately one million immigrants that arrive in the United States every year, since 2001 (Immigrants Aren’t Taking Americans’ Jobs, New Study Finds). Many people argue that they are invaders stealing Americans’ jobs even though these immigrants are just trying to make a living themselves. According to a report conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the belief that immigrants put American’s out of jobs is incorrect. They concluded that there was “‘little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the long run’” (Immigrants Aren’t Taking Americans’ Jobs, New Study Finds). This report disproves the long thought idea that Americans were losing jobs to immigrants. This misconception is a prime example of how some people automatically assume immigrants to be their enemy just because they both want the same thing. Those that have been privileged, the colonizers, have the mindset that they are the only ones deserving of certain goods and cannot comprehend the idea that someone else, whom they believe to be an outsider or inferior, could have the same thing.
This inferiority complex is another topic that Fanon discusses within his work. He focuses in on how the colonizers think and use it to explain why they treat the colonized the way they do. He expresses the colonizers as:
…not content with stating that the colonized world has lost its values or worse never possessed any. The ‘native’ is declared impervious to ethics, representing not only the absence of values but also the negation of values. He is, dare we say it, the enemy of values. In other words, absolute evil. (pg. 6)
Fanon is saying that the colonizers feel the need to dehumanize the colonized and paint them in the darkest way possible. To them, there is only good and evil in the world, so for them to be the good ones, they must make the colonized the bad ones. For the colonizers, this is the only way to interpret the world and justify why they must colonize those known as the colonized. They feel it is their duty to help the colonized as the good and superior race.
Today, there is still a presence of white supremacy within American society, mirroring the beliefs of the colonizers in Fanon’s writing. In 2017, at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a white supremacist drove his car at high speeds through a crowd of people protesting the rally, killing one and injuring many others (White supremacist pleads guilty to federal hate crimes in deadly Charlottesville attack). This attack demonstrates how people who hold their race above others completely desensitize themselves toward other races and those who do not follow their same beliefs. The conception of racial identity is what draws the white supremacists together and forms their cause. They all identify as being of white, European descent and see their ethnic community as the only pure ones. It is clear that the frame of mind held by white supremacists is that other races are inferior and only those of white decent who view themselves as superior are the good or successful ones.
Overall, Fanon’s perspective and interpretation of race relations are beneficial for examining the racial conflicts and idea of racial identity that are present in today’s society. The way in which he focuses on both the colonizers and the colonized minds and addresses each of their outlooks aids in having a more rounded understanding of the racial aspects of today. Being able to recognize how each side thinks allows one to better interpret the situation in its entirety, as trying to understand a conflict from one side never gives the whole picture. Although Fanon’s piece may seem outdated due to it taking place in a different time period with different racial relations than the ones that exist today, the ideas presented in it withstand time and provide a more profound comprehension of racial conflicts and identity.