For this assignment, Professor Green asked us to put Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline in conversation with Frantz Fanon’s “Fact of Blackness” to understand the emotions and struggles of Omari and Xavier, two characters from Pipeline. Fanon’s work examines how Blackness is scrutinized in the eyes of white citizens, which connects to their inherent discomfort of “others.” Further, this discomfort encouraged the separation of whites from other races and justified their superiority complex.
However, both works illustrate that discomfort is a two way street. While white society was uncomfortable living alongside others who were different from them, black society was uncomfortable by the pressure of the white gaze and the expectations that came with it. They felt pressured to prove those stereotypes wrong, but many times, as illustrated by Omari and Xavier, they snap and lash out at their oppressors.
Fanon’s “Fact of Blackness” describes how a black man’s existence will always be first and foremost defined by his skin color, especially in comparison to the white man. He states, “as long as the black man is among his own, he will have no occasion… to experience his being through others” (82). Omari, being in a predominantly white private school, is living in a state of what he feels as constant scrutiny under the white gaze. He feels like an outsider, the token “black boy” of the school, defined by stereotypes. The pressure he felt from his teacher’s gaze is similar to what Fanon describes as the burden of the white man’s eyes, and eventually he snaps under the pressure.
Fanon also talks about the message that white society has sent to black men for generations: that they are dangerous and no good. Omari describes hearing a similar message through the story of Bigger Thomas, how his act of rage unleashed the animal in him. We see how both Omari and Xavier are affected by this fear: Omari tries to suppress his emotions but eventually explodes, whereas Xavier suppresses his emotions by running away from them. Xavier also demonstrates how the societal expectations to not only be a man but a black man have impacted his ability to form a relationship with his son, continuing the generational trauma. He is unable to show love in his determination to be strong and masculine, and in turn, Omari faces a similar struggle.