Making Sense of the Shadows: An Allegory of Modern Day Slavery.

“Race”, a tightly weaved fabrication that has been adeptly warped and knitted into the tapestry of time always finds a way to spin and roll itself into every social justice conversation and debate in modern day America. With each passing generation, the hot topic on race refuses to fizzle out. Yet, race does not exist, scientists have maintained constantly. Then, why do we still believe it does? Let’s look at the early origins of slavery.  The documentary, “Race: the power of an illusion” narrates how in Early America there was no division along color lines, rather the obvious division was class. In other words, “Race is a modern idea – it hasn’t always been with us. In ancient times, language, religion, status, and class distinctions were more important than physical appearance” ( ). Basically, the main question at the time was not about who was coloured or white but who had more wealth, influence and lands than the other. The advent of the transatlantic slave trade business and forceful capture of Africans into the Americas introduced a deceptive division. Chain business transactions (pun intended) would create a division so wide, false ideology and pseudoscience could only account for it. In simplistic terms, the historical buying and selling of human beings breathed life to the lie called “race”  Albeit, modern scientists maintain that if race actually exists then there is only the human race. 

Racism, however is a true reality. Discrimination based on a person’s phenotypical traits as determined by their DNA, genetic makeup and diversity of life (race). This indeed should be considered absurd especially if a society decides to favour/punish a particular group of people over another simply because of what they see. The superficiality of sight, perhaps, has never been called into question until now. If the world was blind to race, then black people’s struggle for freedom is to be rendered inconsequential. If the world sees race, then people of colour are mere walking categorisations as determined by ancient slave masters. The dilemma is very real and ignorance is embedded in the roots of the confusion.

Plato’s cave is a powerful allegory that warns of the dangers of this ignorance. While I separately imagined a scenario similar to Plato’s cave, my deduction remains a separate conjecture unrelated to the famed allegory. In my musing, I imagined the sun to be enlightenment and all humans walking under it to be epistemophillic individuals. Each human is a knowledge loving creature especially if the knowledge is beneficial to their existence.  Although the sun shines on all the humans, not everyone is able to see the light of day. There are those people who deliberately lock themselves into tightly sealed underground dungeons, they are called the” epistemophobics”.  They hate the sun and they fear knowledge to an absolute degree. They have become slaves by their own making and years of living in dark existence transforms them to hateful and prejudiced creatures who claim to not know right from wrong. These individuals become the modern day slaves.  The modern day slaves are the racist and prejudiced individuals who refuse to accept that all humans are equal and should be treated with respect. Their imagined reality revolves around race as a measuring yardstick with which they determine who is worthy of life and the pursuit of happiness. Alternately, the rest of the epistemophillic populace walk around freely impacted by the enlightening sunlight experiencing reality as it is.

A conversation with my Professor, Beth McCoy helped me question Plato’s cave in a different way just as she did.Why does Plato’s cave not exactly say who chained the individuals to the cave? Were they enslaved forcefully or persuasively? These questions are especially important since slavery in the early Americas was essentially forceful capture that required human beings to be chained to do the bidding of a supposedly superior being. In my musing, I believe that the people who are chained to the dungeons deliberately keep themselves there because they fear knowledge. Hatefulness and violence becomes a consequence of ignorance. Purposeful ignorance becomes a powerful and vicious slave master chaining willing individuals who would rather witness fabrications and fiction in dancing shadows instead of walking into the sunlight and experiencing knowledge. Making sense of the shadows would mean acknowledging’s one’s ignorance, casting aside the chains and seeking substance instead of forms. At the end, the shadows are only shadows, clingy duplicitous caricatures of reality just like race.

While, Professor McCoy initially introduced me to the concept of purposeful ignorance. A good example of purposeful ignorance would educated people who are aware on the matters of race yet remain blatant racists. If these people choose to remain in the shadows, can then be classified as the modern day slaves who intentionally decide to be slaves to ignorance until it transforms their entire psyche?  The real message here is while we refuse to acknowledge race as real we also have to accept that racism is real. Indeed, this is a dilemma because one has to know what race is to understand racism. I say, desire to know the complexities of race and racism as epistemophillic individuals but bear the consequences of the confusion that lies in between.

P.s Food for thought. Is knowing a thing the same as acknowledging it?

Did you know? The words “Epistemophillia” and “Epistemophobia” are among the bottom 40% of known and regularly used words. Auto-correct has no idea on what to do with the words!

Pseudo science is basically fake science that has no root in actual science.

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