Unit 1

Unit 1: Language as a tool for oppression

In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon discusses the importance of language in the assimilation of an individual. Mastery of a language brings you immense power and makes you more white and therefore “more human.” Language is used to keep a colonized group oppressed. Colonizers force their own language upon the colonized, essentially erasing their heritage and identity. The colonized learn to think and speak using the colonizer’s language which continually reinscribes the power of the colonizer. The colonized has no way to articulate their pain without reiterating their oppression. 

Fanon explains that the white man is likely to talk down to a black man as if he is a child. His tone changes. His vocabulary is elementary. He believes that this language makes him more relatable and comprehensible. This simple language keeps the black man in his place. This idea captured my interest because I have seen it in practice. It is not intentional, but racism has deep structural roots that cause people to patronize. Language is our main means of communication, and when the colonizer uses it as a tool for oppression, the minority finds difficulty in reclaiming his or her identity. Language allows the colonizer to stay in power, and the colonized experience much difficulty in fighting the system by use of other means of communication.