When Pharoah calls you in and asks, “What is your occupation?” you should answer, “Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.” Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians. – Genesis 46:33-34 (NIV)
After revealing himself as kin to his ten Hebrew brothers, Joseph the Prince of Egypt invites his entire family to come live with him in Egypt and thereby escape the famine that has plagued the Middle East. Before presenting his family to the Pharaoh for final approval, Joseph cautions them to tell the Pharaoh that they are all herdsmen—tenders of livestock.
Joseph knows that when the Pharaoh hears of his family’s occupation, he will assign them a territory called Goshen, located in the northeast region of the Nile Delta. The territory is in Egypt, yet separate from the Egyptians; Joseph is aware that many Egyptians consider Hebrew herdsmen to be uncouth, uncultured, and of lower caste than Egyptian city dwellers.
But in their separate, segregated region, the Hebrews flourish. So much so that by the time a new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt, he notices that the Hebrews in segregated Goshen had outnumbered and become more powerful than the Egyptians.
Scripture tells us that the more the new Pharaoh sought to suppress the Hebrews, the more they multiplied.
Black Americans have had to deal with bigotry in America historically and systemically. But American bigotry has not been able to stifle the creativity, the resiliency, and the vibrancy of Black American life.
Listen to our music. Taste our food. Experience our worship. Enter our ethos.
Beauty has thrived despite bigotry in Native American artistry, in LGBTQ pageantry, and in countless “China Towns” across the country.
It was Joseph who declared that what was meant for evil, God used for good.
God, only you can bring light out of darkness, and we thank you. Amen.