All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all. The children of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.
Israel [Jacob] sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors’—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”
Did you catch that last line? “Shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.” Beneath that phrase are long-standing and long-accepted beliefs about class and ethnicity. Egyptians are superior. Even though Jacob’s family was welcomed by Pharaoh, the immigrants were viewed as inferior by the general public due to their occupation and they were physically segregated. An undercurrent of suspicion and mistrust of the ethnic outsider existed within the culture that the next Pharaoh was able to exploit to oppress and enslave Jacob’s descendants.
White supremacy is REAL! For at least the past 500+ years, white Western Europeans have assumed their superiority over all other people. The results have been the genocide of indigenous tribes, the enslavement of Africans, the subjugation of people groups through expansionist foreign policy, and ethnic cleansing. Not surprisingly then, white supremacy has also shaped immigration and naturalization policy in the U.S. over the past 225+ years. Here are some highlights that reflect the white supremacy narrative:
The 1790 Naturalization Act allowed only free white persons of moral character who had resided in the U.S. for 2 years to become citizens.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first law that was specifically designed to ban immigration by a specific ethnic group. Passage was motivated in part around concerns for maintaining white racial purity. It was not repealed until 1943.
The Immigration Act of 1917 was overwhelmingly approved despite the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. Playing to nativist sentiments, the law expanded the immigration ban to include people within a specified longitudinal/latitudinal grid that included Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Polynesian Islands.
The Immigration Act of 1924 drastically cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country annually, curtailed immigration from southern and Eastern Europe and specifically prohibited anarchists, pacifists, members of “radical” labor unions, and homosexuals.
Maybe denying access to the United States is more “American” than we would like to believe.
Follow the entire history of immigration law HERE.
Questions for Reflection
What do you think motivates the creation of a narrative of superiority or inferiority?
Often feelings of superiority based on race or ethnicity are so engrained in us that we do not recognize it in our actions. If you are white, how could you become more aware of your attitudes and actions based in supremacy or so you can change them? If you are a person of color, how does the narrative of white supremacy shape your self-understanding and behavior?