On February 2nd , Théo Luhaka a 22 year old Black man was arrested by four policemen in the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. It was said that police officers were doing identity checks in streets on a group of people. However, it is alleged that after asking to the police officers the reason of these identity checks Théo found himself alone surrounded by the officers. It is alleged that racial and derogatory comments have been said to Théo. And Théo was subjected to both physical and sexual abuses. One of the police officers pushed his baton into his anus. When Théo and the police officers reached the police station, Théo was sent to the hospital for severe injuries.
The events of February 2nd, I felt angry because of the abuse. I think the police officers operated outside their authority. As the sexual assault has been recorded, I was expecting a true and clear investigation. However, I was wrong. The IGPN (Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale in English the Inspectorate-General of the National Police) who was in charge of the investigation concluded that the police actions were not voluntarily intended to harm Théo. At this point I was about to blow out. The day I heard about it I was going to my dance practice to taper off my emotions.
I analyzed the event from every corner, and all I had in mind was Blacks skins, White masks.
Blacks skins, Whites masks is a book written long time ago by Franz Fanon. In this book Fanon questions the relations between Black and White people. He points out the fact that there are deeply rooted prejudices from both sides of the pendulum.
Who is Franz Fanon?
Franz Omar Fanon was born in Martinique (a French colonized island in the Caribbean). He was a psychoanalyst and a philosopher. He attended school in Martinique and then served in the French army during World War Two. After the war, he completed his studies in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Lyon. Between 1953 to 1956, he served in Algeria as the head of the psychiatry Department of Blinda-joinville Hospital. In 1952, he wrote Blacks skins, White Masks. He died in 1961.
Blacks skins, White masks ?
Blacks skins, White masks exposes prejudices that French Whites have against French Blacks, more specifically West Indian Blacks people and vice versa. Fanon has a clear focus on relations between French Black West Indians and French Whites people, Fanon’s work can apply across a broad spectrum to relations between Blacks and Whites people. In the book, among other themes Fanon ponders over the predominant instinct of Black people to show that they are worthy.
Indeed, Fanon explains that the relations between Blacks and Whites folks are so perverted that there is a spontaneous way for Black people to do better. There is a perception that Blacks always have to prove they are skilled enough to do certain tasks or to be in certain position. He takes the example of a custom officer in Martinique. This custom officer explained that he always investigated the White tourists more than the Black people because he thought that without doing it, White tourists would have think of him as being incompetent.
To link this particular anecdote from the book to the current event, I would say that the same thing happen in Théo’s case. Indeed, some media took the case and explained that Théo is a good guy, that he isn’t a thug. What is that supposed to mean ? Does that mean he was good enough and that he should have been treated better by the police officers ???
In so many cases involving racial abuses we act like that. We don’t have to ponder on whatever or not the victim was a good person. It as if we were saying that only “good” Black men should be deserved to be well treated by police officers. When there is racial abuses we have to say NO.
Franz Fanon also explores the theme of the popular image that represents Black men. Fanon highlights that since the colonization a wrong image of Black men have been release. This misleading image leads to a misconception of Black men by White people. Blacks men are hyper-sexuallized. Nothing new you would say, many writers have been explaining this theme. I think the way Fanon explains it, is peculiar. In a way he says that this misconception triggers fear especially from White men. Fear of being squeeze out by Black men.
I think this misconception can explain the arbitrary and illegal arrest of the young Théo and other Black men in similar situations. It might also be the reason why, this police officer raped him.
How is Théo now ?
Théo is out of hospital now. He opts for early release from the hospital. He made a video in which he thanks everyone who helped him through his ordeal and recovery. I anxiously await the hearing. I just hope I am not waiting in vain, as Justice delayed is Justice denied.
This books is a must-read in times where people of color are discriminated against and segregated against around the world. In this book, everyone’s behaviour is at stake regardless of your skin color. Fanon makes it difficult not to question your own behaviour toward yourself and toward white people.
He concludes the book saying that “ There is no Negro mission; there is no white burden”. It took me a while to clearly understand this quote. But, now I understand it as the entire message of the book. It was not written to wage war against one another, it was written to bring understanding and equality between Blacks and Whites people.
Mel is a 24 years old Caribbean girl from Martinique. She has a Master Degree on International Humanitarian Actions. She is a pole dancer by hobby. Loves dancing and travelling, eager to learn new cultures, new languages, and new dance moves. She can’t stand racial or gender biases thus; she thinks we should speak out when discriminations happen. She also believes in Karma.