Socially Constructed “Blackness” and (Hegelian) Racialized Refrains “Out of the Mouths of Babes” from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen
As Kant, Hegel and other Western philosophers have asserted, the Western tradition, for which white European culture becomes the surrogate, is the standard for determining whether a nation has a culture or could possibly become cultured and civilized, and thus enter into world history.
Kant, paving the way for Hegel, claims that true history begins with the Greeks and that non-Greek peoples are validated only through contact with the Greeks. On Kant’s estimation, the (non)histories of non-Greeks are simply “terra incognita,” an amorphous X, lacking (Western) form and thus unable to appear as intelligible. He then turns to the Jews to illustrate how a nation may enter a state of historical and cultural recognition.
This happened with the Jewish nation (volk) at the time of the Ptolemies through the Greek translation of the Bible, without which one would ascribe little credibility to their isolated records. From that point forward (if this beginning has been properly ascertained) one can pursue its narratives. And thus with all the other nations (Völkern).
In his lectures on the philosophy of history, Hegel takes up this same line of thinking; however, in order to justify his position, he provides an elaborate narrative in which Geist’s presence or absence indicates whether a nation has historical, cultural or socio-political significance. One might go as far as to claim that the mother’s remark to Fanon has its own genealogical history which is consonant with the Western philosophical tradition; her awareness of this history matters little. Approached in this manner, echoes of Hegel’s depiction of Africans as cannibalistic can still be heard in the child’s cry, “Maman, the Negro’s going to eat me”.
All of these discourses—whether philosophical, pseudoscientific, or everyday chatter on a public train—comprise the many pieces of Fanon’s “black” self, woven together by the white other.