Sunday, February 3, 2013
Children of the Colonies
“He watched his body grow white out of the darkness like a Kodak print emerging from a liquid.” - William Faulkner, Light in August
I found Fanon's argument about violence incredibly compelling, but on a second read through I thought that his premise of a Manichean society was too neat to be realistic. I do not debate the sentiment of the colonizer or the colonist and their inability co-exist, but rather wonder at this implicit rejection that people on the fringes of either society exist. Fanon describes the colonial dichotomy as:“[a] compartmentalized world, [a] world divided in two, [that] is inhabited by different different species. The singularity of the colonial context lies in the fact that economic reality, inequality, and enormous disparities in lifestyles never manage to mask human reality.” (5) By calling the colonizer and the colonized different species, he implies that they can never reproduce, or intermingle. They could not co-exist long enough to do so.
However, there is an entire lexicon to discuss mixed-racial populations, and many such words find their roots in the colonies of the western world. Mestizos were originally a mix of Spanish colonists and native Latin Americans; Basters are a mix of Dutch men and African women in the Cape Colony; and Quadroon is a word that literally refers to someone who has only one fourth of a native African or Australian heritage while the rest is Caucasian. These are only a few examples of mixed-races created by the divided colonial word. It would then be historically inaccurate to say that the colonists never produced offspring with the people they colonized, and the existence of these people forces complexity to enter the Manichaen world that Fanon identifies. What, then, would be the experience of a person born into a mix of two of these “congenitally antagonistic” cultures?
The process of creating a mixed-race is almost certainly in part one of violence. I do not disagree with Fanon when he says that “The colonist is not content with physically limiting the space of the colonized i.e., with the help of his agents of law and order. . . the colonist turns the colonized into a kind of quintessence of evil. Colonized society is not merely a portrayed as a society without values. The colonist is not content with saying that the colonized society 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” (6). This is how the colonist rationalizes a discourse of violence which stems beyond atrocities that his law would allow. One form of violence in particular, an act of ownership and power in the extreme, is rape. And from rape, a mixed race is born. A race that is nearly impossible for either of its parent ethnicities to love. It is an outsider race by nature, often made other by both the colonist and the colonized.
William Faulkner's character Joe Christmas, the antihero star of Light in August is one such example of a person of mixed race, and his psychology embodies the struggle that such a people might go through. Though he looks white, a rumor circulates when he is a young child that he has a black ancestor, and from that day forward he is vilified, almost universally treated like an animal by the people who believe he is not 100% white. However, because of his color he is also an outcast from the black community. He is a man without a culture or an identity, treated as an animal and a privileged rich man at the same time. His confusion is often visually interpreted by Faulkner, as the quote at the beginning shows.
It is people like Joe that are left out by Fanon. These people that are children of the very violence that he is suggesting is the only reasonable discourse in a colony, the only coherent discourse, and they need to be included for a complete picture of the colonized world. It is no longer two distinct cultures, not even three, but some odd mix that forces complexity. It is this breeding that cannot allow Fanon's Manichaen world. There is always mixing, whether we are comfortable with it or not. Whether we can face the children of colonization or not, they certainly exist.