Known as the father of decolonization Frantz Omar Fanon (1925–61) was a psychiatrist, an activist and a philosopher. This revolutionary social scientist was born on the French colony Martinique and has greatly contributed to the “theorization of the psycho-social elements of the colonial encounter in metropolitan France and colonial Algeria and shaped late 20th century critical anthropology in Europe and North America.” His work on the analysis of the effects of racism and colonialism on the colonized contained in his publication titled ‘Black Skins, White Masks’ still influences political, psychological, social and other forms of scientific inquiry.
At the age of 17 Fanon joined the French army and later left the island to fight with the French Resistance. In a response to his professor’s criticism for being involved in a “white men’s war” Fanon emphasized that “each time that liberty is affected, be we whites, blacks, yellows, or kakos … I swear to you today that no matter where it may be, each time that Freedom is threatened, I’ll be there.” He had been a public-spirited person from the age of 14 and has always shown dedication to the weakening of racial degradation and the explorations of radical existential humanism.
As a result of witnessing the brutality of the Algerian war while he was the head of the psychiatry department at Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria in 1953, Fanon decided to join the Algerian rebels (Front de liberation nationale). He was a dedicated writer, psychiatrist and an ambassador of the FLN until his health undermined his work in 1960.
While some of Fanon’s critics claim that his work reflects the preferment of irrationalism, the glorification of violence and exaggeration of colonial effects and realities, social scientists such as political theorists concerned with Africana philosophy, feminism or postcolonial thought and decolonial education for instance have taken a lot from his work.
In an article by Nolwandle Zondi for the Daily Vox one of the #feesmustfall movement activists Mcebo Dlamini considered Fanon as the first person to conceptualise and articulate decolonisation therefore making their fight for young black people a clearly defined and winnable struggle. He submitted that “Fanon pumped blood in my empty shell of blackness. He reminded me that I’m human and not inferior to anyone and that I have to do something about the injustice perpetrated against me and my people. He was the one who motivated me that fear is an expression of inferiority and that I should overcome it so I can fight for all the oppressed. He was able to tell the hard truth, that blacks are suffering in the hands of whites, and we should fight until we are free.”
In the same article the national spokesperson of the EFF Naledi Chirwa articulated the impact of Fanon’s ideas on her perspective of blackness and gender issues. She said “…He made me understand how the process of devising toxic black masculinity comes from the fact that whiteness imposes its own masculinity on black men. White maleness does not happen for black men because they are dispossessed and have to perform masculinity in another way that is unhealthy for black communities. He made me see the disregard for black women by black men as well.”
After suffering from cancer Fanon died at the age of 46 in 1961. He was treated in the United Sates after being moved from the Soviet Union for better medical attention. His body was sent back to Algeria when he died and was buried at the Front de liberation nationale’s graveyard and received “military recognition as an important revolutionary.”