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The Allegory of the Fire

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It is cold and dark but, in the distance, you see a fire. As you approach, you feel its warmth and can see within its light. You move closer; the warmth grows, the light is brighter. Nearer still, you become uncomfortable, it is too warm. You try to move away, but you are pulled forward. Or pushed by an invisible hand? This close to the fire, it is too hot. Sparks sting like wasps and the smoke chokes you like brutal hands. You want to move away, back to the pleasant warmth. But you are pushed forward. You hear anguished screams over the fire’s crackle, you see people burning within the flames. They stand upon a heap of charred bone and ash. This fire has burned a long time. You are shoved into the flames. As it consumes you, you understand that many who bask in the fire have no idea what it burns. Others know full well—they command the fire be fed and they are obeyed. This fire is racism in all its forms and its fuel is human beings. This allegory is, obviously, modeled on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Like any philosophical allegory, it requires additional explanation and analysis. The fire, as noted in the allegory, consists of racism in all its forms. Being within the fire is analogous to living fully with the harms of racism. For example, being wrongly imprisoned because of the racism of those running the justice system one had the misfortune to encounter. Or being killed because of racism—in that case, the analogy is to the charred bones. The too hot circle is analogous to those who are harmed by aspects of racism, but the harms are not as great as within the fire itself. As an example, people who have enough financial resources to usually avoid the most brutal of harms of racism. The too warm circle can include two types of people. One group can be people who do experience some of the lesser harms of racism, but not the full effects—an extreme example would be an African-American celebrity who is pulled over for driving while black but is let go when the. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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