The Black Worldview Presented in Kindred by Octavia Butler and Black Skin What Mask by Dambudzo Marechera

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To don on a mask and proceed through the day is nothing more than an act of survival in face of oppression. The brilliant works of Octavia Butler and Dambudzo Marechera explore the themes of survival through their characters performance of whiteness or in reaction of whiteness. Producing a complicated dynamic of power struggles of different types of interracial relationships. This forced assimilation whether willingly or not is a reaction to the racist society in which the characters inhabit, allowing the foundation for commentary for the authors.

It becomes a question of how does one exist, to dwell, within one’s physical and psychological home has become an urgent one in an increasingly globalized world. Yet the answer to this question has never been more fleeting. Lacking universal political or sociological narratives in what can be oversimplified as a post-colonial or postmodern milieu. By examining Dana’s experience through temporal space and physical time, I will analyze hoe her character is representative of a broader enduring problem of the ways in which society silences the mental health issues of black woman.

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Critical race theory speaks to the sociology of mental health, and mental health problems produced by racial stratification. This theory describes how race affects the life experience one faces on an everyday basis and on a larger for social construct. This provides a definition or outline of what mental health and how mental heath can manifest within the African American community. This effect on the community can manifest into nihilistic tendencies, anti-self-issues, suppressed anger expression, delusional-denial, and extreme racial paranoia.

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Suppressed anger expression is ones bottling of aggression in response to a social climate that does not recognize racism as a cause for upset. This can result in either an internalized rage or one to like a white person to get ahead in life, we see this in Kindred. When dana first is sent back from the past to her present time and tells Kevin he responds that she is ultimately scaring herself thus diminishing her experience. Furtherly most experiences in the past where she is treat unfairly by the white folks, Dana sacrifices her voice to maintain the comfort of the room and the safety of her own livelihood furthering the suppression and racial discrimination Dana must endure to protect the oppressors feelings. Delusional-denial tendencies is the likelihood to avoid acceptance of one’s condition/reality in belief of another, as a result of race and trauma. Seemingly someone tries to pretend the racism as not an issue or avoids the conversation. Much often the goal of what Dana hopes to correct within her teachings of Rufus, the delusional denial is deconstructed in this situation, as the reader we know the inevitability, Rufus grows up to be just as violent and racist as his father, proving Dana’s attempts futile. This is not only visible with Dana but her husband, Kevin, as well.

“”This could be a great time to live in,” Kevin said once. “I keep thinking what an experience it would be to stay in it-go West and watch the building of the country, see how much of the Old West mythology is true.” “West,” I said bitterly. “That’s where they’re doing it to the Indians instead of the blacks! “He looked at me strangely. He had been doing that a lot lately (p76)’ As Kevin is less affected by the horrible practices of slavery, he is able to see more of the fascinating and potentially positive aspects of Dana’s time travel and living in the past. She has less protection from the painful and deplorable aspects of American history due to both her race and gender. After her firsthand experience of slavery and the very real violence of whites against blacks, Dana has more empathy for the Native American tribes that were enslaved or killed in the Old West and cannot push past this discomfort to enjoy the potential academic interest of such a trip. Kevin, shielded from most of the worst effects of slavery thanks to his white skin, does not fully understand why Dana can’t get over this unease in order to try to enjoy this time as a type of vacation, but Dana does not have that freedom in the past. This is where our focused characters, Dana and unnamed protagonist, diverge, within their own limitations. In the literary work Black Skin White Mask our protagonist copes with the heavy burden of internalized racism.

Confronting the problem of identify and of colonization ‘Black Skin What Mask,’ the title a casual pun on Fanon’s popular work, takes as its central point Marechera’s expulsion from Oxford. Typically, the narrator is telling the story to a black friend who ‘was always washing himself… He did not so much wash as scrub himself until he bled. He tried to purge his tongue too, by improving his English and getting rid of any accent from the speaking of it’ (p281). Whitewashing and wearing a European mask. A façade that pushes our unnamed protagonist to the edge of their own sanity. It is his desperate racial confusion and accompanied self-hatred which pushed the unnamed protagonist to his insanity. Marechera makes reference to this fact of blackness,’ an overdetermined racialized identity. It is the description of the condition of blackness that the narrator opens up with. My skin sticks out a mile in all the crowd around here. Every time I go out I feel it tensing up, hardening torturing myself. It only relaxes when I am in the shadow, when I am alone…When I am angry… It is like a silent friend: moody, assertive, possessive, callous sometimes. I had such a friend once. He finally slashed his wrists. He is now in a lunatic asylum.

Double voice-ness in the text is a result of this splitting. It signifies disparities between fictionalized images, stereotypes, masks of blackness and what lies beneath them. As if speaking with two voices, his narrative of what he sees is ruptured by his thoughts which penetrate beneath the surface layer of representation. His double voice-ness is also deliberate in that it represents his refusal to create an authoritarian, mono-logic, seamless text. Alienation represents the split between self and other, where it is the self that becomes other. The double voice narrative shatters the colonial distinction between Colonizer, Colonized. The narrator is split into two competing definitions of his own identity. The condition of splitting or creating insanity is to display the symptom of the contradictory inheritance of colonialism, which imposed a definition of identity whose limits prevent the narrator from aspiring to or aching an identity that is closer to that of the colonizer. Our narrator is trapped by his inability to feel authentically himself.

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The Black Worldview Presented in Kindred by Octavia Butler and Black Skin What Mask by Dambudzo Marechera. (2022, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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