The Matrix and Race: Escaping the Cave of Race
Dr Greg Hampton.
According to W.E.B. Dubois’ “The Conversation of Races”, and George Samuel Schuyler’s Black No More, and just about every other reputable scholar since the beginning of the 20th century, race has been defined as a social construct. Race has generally been a tool used by the populous to construct hierarchies and categories that help maintain the social order or lack thereof. Like the society that employs the notion, race is constantly in flux. As an imaginary force, race changes and adapts to the needs of the society that depends on it for social stability and memory. What this means is that in America, for example, race is a crucial element in defining the powerful and the powerless within specific geographical and temporal boundaries. America owes its conception to the tools of race and racism. It might be said that race and racism were the true building blocks of the American social order in addition to being the framework of its national value system. Notwithstanding these mundane and controversial observations, race is undoubtedly located securely in the realm of the ambiguous. In other words, race exists but it does not function solely in Plato’s realm of the real.
Consequently, race can be thought of as a realm of its own, which might be likened to that of a matrix. A matrix being a blurred location in our imaginations, where the unreal is as concrete as the ground on which we stand and stumble. Popular culture has produced two very interesting and entertaining films that facilitate the notion of race as a matrix. Matrix and Matrix Reloaded written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers suggest that the genre of science fiction and the medium of film might be an ideal location for deconstructing complex notions such as race and human identity. This paper will investigate the value of understanding race as a matrix and critique the use of such a metaphor by American Popular culture.
Dr Greg Hampton (United States)
Department of English
Dr. Gregory Jerome Hampton is presently employed as an Assistant Professor of African-American Literature in the Department of English at Howard University. Dr. Hampton received a B.A. in Economics and African-American Studies from Oberlin College; an M.A. in African-American Studies from Yale University; and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from Duke University. He has published articles in the English Journal and the CLAJ and is presently developing an anthology of critical essays focused on the works of Black Science Fiction writers.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)