excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s novel Black Skin, White Masks
This is an excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s novel Black Skin, White Masks. I see the toxicity of language elitism and keeping up appearances of anti-blackness within my own Caribbean family. This originates from French colonialism, race, and the bourgeoisie class.
Adjusting to environmental language shifts had always been a part of my experiences. What it meant to first learn my family’s native tongues, and then being placed into predominantely english speaking spaces shifted the ways in which I perceived myself and my identity. Most of the time, I mixed different languages when I spoke, and it was difficult trying to place myself within this multiplicity of culture. I often think about how French and Haitian Creole were my first languages, but after moving back to the United States, I was forced to speak and write more English at school and at home. Now, English is my best spoken language and I have to think more when I speak my family’s tongues. It sucks that this is the case. This type of assimilation forced me to loose parts of my understandings of family language and self. I thought this excerpt was significant to the language elitism and social dynamics within islands in the Caribbean. I also thought about the experiences of moving to America and the language hierarchies in that. English became the “better” language to know in order to progress in our American society. I often think about the prejudices my family has had to endure just because of their “non-American” accents.
to add to
Jason and Jenna Greenberg:
Object #5 (French Antilles Passage) • This just makes me sad--> Whitewashing and Eurocentrism • Diaspora--> languages and cultures and so many things were lost because of assimilation • The first paragraph "Avoid Creolisms" --> SAD--> If everyone avoids it, then that's a whole language and history is lost • Modern day America looks down upon AAVE (African American Vernacular English) • In the third grade, there was a kid who was from Haiti (came after the earthquake) • He spoke Creole and had little knowledge of the English language--> someone else in the class was able to speak to him, but if that wasn't the case, over time that language and culture would dissipate--> ASSIMILATION
This hits home because Haitians (at least the ones in my family) are very much into how they are perceived. They very much like to separate themselves from being “Black” and saying they are “Haitian.” They often pride themselves for being “elite/high class.” My grandmother speaks to my cousins often in French, and I believe it’s because of that reason. However, I do feel some hypocrisy because if one more family member complains/gets angry that I don’t speak Kreyol (and yes I said Kreyol not French), I’m going have to show them this excerpt.
This passage resonates with me as I have loosely experienced this ideology first hand. Growing up the adults in my family only spoke to me in French. To this day, I still notice how older generations switch from speaking creole to French when speaking directly to me. My mom has described learning French in school and speaking creole with her friends or to the maids in Haiti. I related it to speaking in Ebonics in casual settings and speaking proper, grammatically correct English to professors and your elders. As she got older, she was able to speak to her elders in Creole.
This shit def be happening in Trinidad, anti blackness in the caribbean is real and even down to how other islands judge each other on slight differences within culture. There is a real ego battles of who culture is better. Sometimes it does come off as joking at least when my family is doing it, but there is still underlying ideals adopted from a western lense of hierarchy and essentially a debate on who is closer to the western status. It truly creates divide amongst the islands especially with the layer of colorism that happens within it.
This excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks makes me think about the anti-blackness that lives in upper middle-class Black homes. When I was younger, I was in a historic black family organization, called Jack & Jill Inc. I just remember how the organization events made me feel like I had to be a certain caliber of black. It was important that we spoke with certain diction and carried ourselves a certain way so that we set ourselves apart from I guess the “Regular Negroes”. Ever since my family and I left the organization, I can spot the toxic behavior of previous or current Jack & Jill members. Jack & Jill kids are easy to spot, they’re an amalgamation of self-hate, white adjacency, and black swag.
I think of my mom’s Korean accent, thickest of our family of four. It’s always going to change the way she’s treated and seen in this country, despite her being an American citizen who has lived here for over 25 years. Some accents are cute and sexy, but hers will always just be perceived as foreign. But I also think of my American accent when I speak Korean, how my tongue feels clumsy with some words and how it can take me a second or third try to get it right. I get self-conscious about my Korean when I’m speaking, and I cringe every time a word comes out with an especially heavy 교포 accent.