Image of a white mask, with brown glass eyes

Layer of Life: “Intentionally Removed”

By Will Cowan, N.H., Shan, Conrad and Anonymous 

“I was angry for a reason.”  Through interviews and a lively roundtable discussion, five undergrads dig into the complexities of privilege, discrimination and embodied life.  Conversations are difficult on various levels, as the students and their interlocutors share stories of violence and reflect on the racialized assumptions at play within Canadian discourse. The dissonance between students is itself instructive, prompting one participant to point to the tape of the audio essay as itself exemplary of the colonialism that Frantz Fanon protested so powerfully in Black Skin,White Masks.  Perhaps this epiphany is precisely what Fanon would have hoped would emerge from an existential project on “privilege.”

Musing about this process of producing and editing tape, N.H. describes a retrospective desire to re-word or re-state key parts of the dialogue that listeners will hear in this audio essay.  In part because of its spontaneous dialogue, this project enacts its own thematic concerns with the “masks” or facades that animate social conventions and scripts– especially those masks that, as Fanon puts it, reflect and reinforce colonial dynamics.  What’s at stake in generalizations about social categories or identities?   How significant is the context in which one person recognizes another?   N. H.’s reflections point to the complexity of these questions, pondering their own degree of freedom in participating in the project–and they invoke Fanon’s searing indictment of the violence of recognition that, at the same time, invokes the possibility of emancipatory forms of recognition:

“Both [the black and white man] have to move away from the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine conversation can be born… [so] why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover the other?”  (Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks)

Thank you 

One creator of the project states:  “I’d like to say a huge thank you to the friends and family who allowed me to interview them.”

References and attributions (with suggestions for further reading)

Clifford, W. K. 2008. “The Ethics of Belief,” in The Ethics of Belief. Ed. A. J. Burger. CreateSpace Publishing.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2008.  Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment.  Routledge.

Coulthard, Glen Sean. 2014. Red Skin, White Masks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Frantz. 2008. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Richard Philcox. Grove Press.

McIntosh, Peggy. 1989.  “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” National SEED Project

Sommers, Sam.  2008. “All Stereotypes are True? Since When?” Psychology Today 

Photograph by R. Nial. Bradshaw (Flickr)

Videos referenced in the audio essay:  “Dear White People” scene and Jimmy Kimmel scene

Listen to Student Project   Download Transcript