The great philosopher, Plato, once wrote an essay entitled "The Allegory of The Cave." In this essay, Plato tells the story of a number of individuals, whom happened to be the inhabitants of a cave. The cave, and the darkness therein, is symbolic of a number of things. However, the two most pronounced and understood symbols are the representations of "underexposure" and "ignorance.
" As it stands, these persons have lived out their entire lives in this "cave," and have never known or been exposed to anything else. On the other hand, there is one who seems to mistakenly stumble outside the cave and into the daylight. The daylight could mean a number of things, as I am sure that it does to each reader. Consequently, the light juxtaposes the darkness, and can be seen an "knowledge" and "exposure.".Now, as any decent person would do, this "enlightened" man tries to return to his fellow bretheren and explain to them what he has just witnessed.
His ultimate goal is to get others to venture outside of their present darkness. However, he gets quite the unwarranted response. More of his peers than not are greatly angered at him, either because they are in disbelief or because they are fearful and resent the fact that they have wasted so much time in darkness.
Only a few believe. Yet, it could be that most believed him, but they were extremely afraid. Assumably, the darkness that they knew was better than that which they didn't know. Or, it could have been that because they could not fathom that there was any other existence beside the one that they and always known, no matter how horrible it maybe.I've contemplated this tale time and time again, and can not help but notice the dualities between the cave dwellers and my people (i.
e.Black folk). For centuries, in this country, African-Americans, and other diasporic Africans were kept in darkness when it came to education and their history. This darkness haunted our ancestors in their strivings to gain education and to know themselves; In many cases, it cost them their lives. However, their were a lucky few who were able to overcome the pervasive darkness of discrimination and racism and achieve their dreams. Yet, this was not true of the masses.
What is even more problematic is how pervasive this darkness continues to be when it comes to Black history, which is subsequently world history. There are no longer the same visible monsters that try to beat us off our path. Yet there are those mental demons, which tell us that to love self and try and learn about self is being racist.
There are also those demons that tell us that it is unnecessary because we now live in a multicultural society, where racism no longer exist, thus making it unnecessary to take the issue of cultural history seriously. And, last but least, there are those demons that tell us that those annals of Black history are not true, because Black folk could not possibly have done such things. Out of all these demons, I do not presume to know which is worse. But, i will say that I believe the latter demon shows more power, because it is he who causes many of us to suffer from inferiority complexes that prevent us from reliving the greatness that we once knew.On the other hand, there are now many of us who have been lucky enough to encounter the light in its many forms, be it formal education or self taught knowledge.
However, what seems to be most problematic here is the various interpretations of the light that we seem to want to take back to our bretheren. Many of us either want to force feed people or tell them nothing at all, and take the attitude that "I did it myself, why can't they?" There are also some of us who have taken the attitude that our exposure to the light has in some way made us better the masses who remain in darkness. Consequently, we never seem to realize that in many ways than not we are very similar to the initial cave dweller that stumbled into the light. Negating the fact that our exposure to the light brought with it a duality of things- an opportunity and a responsibility. The opportunity is whatever you make of it-that is the individual part. The responsibility is to take the light/knowledge back to our community-"to whom much is given, much is required.
" The enlightened can not afford to let the darkness continue to overpower our people. What does all this mean? This means that the enlightened must teach them, tell them, embrace them, love them into the light..Carolyn Hall is a doctoral candidate at Clark Atlanta University.
She recieved her BA and MA in English from Tennessee State University. She is a native of Memphis, Tn and currently resides in Atlanta, GA, where she teaches at Clark Atlanta University.
By: Carolyn Hall