One of the important ideas in Fanon’s thinking is that race is a form of alienation. This idea is at the center of Black Skin, White Masks, and one of its most important chapters, “The Lived Experience of the Black Man.” The chapter uses a pastiche-like narrative of black experience, where the problem of racial alienation drives the story forward. The narrator, which we can consider not only Fanon, but every ‘black man,’ is confronted by a typical racist act of everyday life. The confrontation throws him off balance and disrupts his assumptions about himself and the way the world works. As the chapter continues, racist situations and voices periodically intervene, increasing the tension and delirious-like atmosphere. The narrative, then, is the story of how the narrator struggles to understand his situation in the white supremacist society in which he lives. By the end of the chapter, the narrator has reached a new self-consciousness of his racialized, alienated existence, if not a way out.
The central focus on racial alienation is announced in the opening passage of the chapter. Fanon starts the narrative with a jolt of recognition that begins the struggle of self-realization:
I came into the world anxious to uncover meaning in things, my soul desirous to be at the origin of the world, and here I am an object among other objects. Locked in this suffocating reification, I appealed to the Other so that his liberating gaze, gliding over my body suddenly smoothed of rough edges, would give me back the lightness of being I thought I had lost, and taking me out the world put me back in the world. But just as I get to the other slope I stumble, and the Other fixes me with his gaze, his gestures and attitude, the same way you fix a preparation with a dye. I lose my temper, demand an explanation….Nothing doing. I explode. Here are the fragments put together by another me. (89)
The narrator experiences an assault – captured in the racial epithet and racial categorization that leads the chapter – which reveals a conflict that was previously hidden by everyday life. Apparently, the narrator assumed he had a freedom to determine his existence he does not. He becomes a prisoner of a racial situation in which he is objectified. However, at the same time, the incident has shook the narrator out of himself. This kind of situation or conflict becomes the foundation for a self-awareness of his true condition or existence.