Internalizing the External

“Maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist.” Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Racism is overly simplified. It’s portrayed as a black and white issue in which the external is internalized. The racial objectification that occurs throughout society has been analyzed and explained by a plethora of diverse thinkers. Franz Fanon commented on his ideas about racial objectification in a simple way, without marginalizing the issue. In this post I want to explain not only his points, but an instance in which it was applied. Your mind will create an image from the external narrative, and it will show how Fanon’s ideas of hailing, being for others, third person consciousness, and fixation are unfortunately integrated into society. I want you as the reader to question the role racist society has had on your innocent mind as I externally, then internally tell the story.

As you read, paint an image in your mind about the people and the issue to show how racial objectification is not only in society, but you as well.

This story is about an artist and a well-respected and accomplished news anchor for CNN, and the argument that ensued. What does the artist look like? The reporter? What do you think the interview was originally about?

Before the interview begins there is no “formal hello”, as the artist is merely asked how to say his name. This absence of a greeting by the reporter shows Fanon’s idea of a hail, albeit non-verbal in this case, as the reporter treats the person as an object. Not recognizing the internal person’s ideas that’s inside, and their qualification for debating the issue.

The reporter introduces the artist as merely “a rapper” representing the person as an undescribed subject. No adjectives to describe his work as “lyrical”, “moving”, “creative”. This represents Fanon’s second classification as being-for-others since the reporter is just applying a label to a multi-dimensional person. How would you respect an artist? What image do you have of a rapper?

The reporter’s lack of trust in the rapper means that the rapper is forced to defend his credibility as a person. This shows Fanon’s third idea of third person consciousness in which the artist is forced to see himself, because he feels that he isn’t seen as an equal in the eyes of the reporter. He is seen as an inferior object, not a person.

The last element of racial objectification from Fanon is fixation. This can be seen when the artist is about to walk off the set, because he was so offended. Is he wrong because he’s just a rapper with an ego? How do you picture this scene when just looking at the external of a person?

What if I told who the rapper was? His name is Talib Kweli. The reporter is Don Lemon. What if I told you that he is an active civil rights icon, and is part of countless organizations that are tied with black, women, and gay rights? What if I told you that the interview was about Ferguson, and the protests that Kweli was directly involved in? How does your view of the rapper change? Is he still just an object, that let his ego get in the way of an interview? Or is he a multi-dimensional human being who was emotionally attached to a topic he felt the reporter didn’t find him credible on? Racism can be black on black. It can be labeled as a stereotype. It creates people into things, instead of a sum of their internal parts. Is Don Lemon to blame? Or is it the society that cements these racist stereotypes? Fanon shows that the only way to fight racism is to see how we do it ourselves first.

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