Genesis 39:1, 7-20a
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
…After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
Joseph is Hebrew newly arrived in Egypt. As a slave, he ends up in the household of Potiphar, but things quickly go badly for him. He is accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and he is arrested and incarcerated. Twice, he is referred to as “that Hebrew.” His “other” status put him at risk for false accusation.
Often immigrants are easy targets for false accusations because we are told stories of immigrant criminality. But we also have a long-standing cultural narrative of African-American men as sexual predators (consider the original “Birth of A Nation” movie). When these two narratives come together, it is disastrous for the 2.5 million African immigrants living in the U.S.–the fastest growing segment of the immigrant population.
Africans are at special risk for being suspected of crimes, stopped for minor traffic infractions, and questioned because they are black in America. In a report by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), it is noted that “Black people are far more likely than any other population to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. criminal enforcement system — the system upon which immigration enforcement increasingly relies.” African immigrants are more likely to be deported for criminal convictions than from other regions. In 2015, 1,293 Africans were deported. And it is becoming more common to see ICE agents in African-American communities, questioning and detaining both immigrants AND U.S. citizens.
Questions for Reflection
According to CNN, there are over 50,000 “illegal” immigrants in the U.S. from Ireland, and there are estimates of 70,000 “illegal” immigrants from Poland in the Chicago area alone!
What assumptions you do you have about where “illegal aliens” are from? Do you think there is a double standard for treatment of “illegal” immigrants from Europe? If so, why?