In the chapter “The Lived Experience of the Black Man” from Black Skin, White Masks, the narrator understands that, in order to be a “human being,” the objective basis of his existence as a racially inferior person – as a being alienated from himself – is an absolute limit that must be overcome. The objectivity of his existence has its own necessity that he must obey, and therefore, by necessity he must destroy it in order to live at all.
The narrator confronts the objectivity of his racialized existence in the form of his fetishized body and culture, and all the relations and interactions that make up social life, where “blackness was there, dense and undeniable,” with all the determined weight of history (96). The naturalized appearance, “facticity,” or common sense, everydayness of racial existence and white supremacy is an all-encompassing reality. As such, the racialized self and social situation is inescapable. In every aspect of life, the narrator continues, a white supremacist society “demanded of me that I behave like a black man” (94). And though a few may climb the hierarchal division of labor, they will remain “the Negro teacher, the Negro physician,” marked by an inferior racial essence (97). Regardless, the place of the non-white remains highly contingent, and always open to question. For if that teacher or physician “made one false move, it was over for him and for all those who came after him” (97). As Fanon suggests, the objectivity of alienated racial existence means to live life in constant de-realization of oneself. In other words, the actual material conditions of one’s existence negates or denies one’s self at every turn. It is this contradiction that is the basis for the narrator’s struggle for freedom, which emerges later in the chapter.
In response to his dilemma, the narrator begins to run out of options. As a result, the contingency of black life in a white supremacist society permeates the narrator as a condition of all-encompassing anxiety. The narrator swings back and forth between self-loathing and pleas of understanding to white society, leading to him “becoming a nervous wreck” (98). Filled with “Shame and self-contempt,” the narrator tells us how “I slip into corners; I keep silent; all I want is to be anonymous, to be forgotten” (96). And yet, in other moments, he “wanted to rationalize the world and show the white man he was mistaken” (98). At times, the narrator insists that all people are equal, and therefore “Reason was assured of victory”; however, even as he “reintegrated the brotherhood of man” in his mind, he is “soon disillusioned” by the objective reality of race (99).