When the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, scripture tells us it is because they were “more numerous and powerful more than we.” “Let us deal shrewdly with them,” says Pharoah, “or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” The Egyptians fear that the status quo will be upended by the Isrealites in their region. No longer will they enjoy the de-facto privileges of the normative group-and they perceive this impending shift as inherently threatening. So, they resort to violent, genocidal measures to protect their position.
Though we have heard this story over and over, we can’t seem to stop reliving it. So much so, that it’s almost trite to point out that its drama-in America, the struggle iconically wrought between white power-holders, and African Americans and other communities of color-is being enacted even now. For me, as a white woman protected by my whiteness from so much of the hypocrisy and violence of our nation, it bears remembering, though, that this impulse-the Pharoah’s impulse in Exodus, the impulse of any group in power that views their position as somehow precarious-is exercised even when it’s not so visible as a white nationalist rally.
I hope that all of us who enjoy power and privilege can make it part of our practice to listen to "the other" in our society and examine ourselves daily to see in what ways we may be holding on to our privileges to the harm and detriment of our neighbors. I hope that we can stand up to violence, racism and injustice when we see it. And I hope that we can challenge ourselves to keep imagining that eschatalogical future when this power-struggle between proverbial Pharoahs and Israelites, seems like more than the thinnest of allegories to our own life and times.