There are factions in America who suggest that we forget slavery and move on, that the people who make an issue of it are proud and have a one-track mind. Meanwhile, it has been centuries since the biblical account of the Exodus, and the lingering effects of abuse have seemingly dissolved between the modern Jews and the Egyptians of today. The existence of the Israelite’s slavery has even been questioned due to the lack of archeological evidence. In fact, a significant amount of scholars claim that the biblical Old Testament stories are likely mere religious narratives told for the sole purpose of passing down life lessons within the Hebrew culture. Is America equally in danger of pushing slavery into a realm of forced amnesia? Is forgetfulness and doubt to be the common trends for significant moments of moral neglect in human history?
The enslavement of the ancient Hebrews is not of great historical significance outside of Christianity and modern Israel. However, aside from short interruptions, the experience of Egypt has not gone out of the Hebrew mind. It is an annually remembered as a religious holiday on the level of the Day of Atonement—Passover. The sacrifice of lambs and large dinners commemorate the most horrific stain on the Hebrew psyche. The experience was so essential to the understanding of salvation that God commanded Moses and the people to remember.
Skepticism has undoubtedly proven itself an expedient guide for scholarly research and an integral tool whilst discerning fact from fiction. It is advantageous for one to gain knowledge about the world by first questioning its contents since it either strengthens the validity of the subject or expose its inconsistencies. But what happens when we shed the scathing light of skepticism on something personal such as the veracity of Hebrew slavery in Ancient Egypt? While some claim that the Exodus has its place in physical history, some claim that Hebrew slavery in Egypt is simply a religious narrative, used as “a medium for the establishment and maintenance of order and meaningfulness” (Feldt). Therefore, even if we assume that the Exodus is merely a religious narrative intended to emphasis protect the moral health of the Israelites, then it makes sense why there is no residue of political awkwardness between the Hebraic Jews and Egyptians of our time.
In the case of modern-day Egypt and Israel, enough time has passed that the issue has passed into historical irrelevance, but remains a warning for humanity. God purposely uses the Exodus as a reminder of his power and providence. Forgetfulness is an open door to sin (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). In the same vein, although we may tire of the seemingly endless discussion on ethnic tension, it is essential that we persist. There is a difference between resentment where people immediately and unfairly judge the superficial based not on their actions, but on the unchangeable actions of our respective ancestors and remembrance. Black History Month and Holocaust museums are deliberate attempts to keep the past before us as a safeguard against future sins. When we are mindful of how far we have come as a nation, a culture, a people, we can then effectively address the present issues: police brutality, affirmative action, the glass ceiling--not only for African-Americans, but for all the underprivileged and underrepresented. Yes, it should be the goal of every person to make certain that the history of slavery’s atrocities strengthen our moral compasses, but it is more than that. Slavery happened. It has affected countless numbers of lives in undesirable and deplorable ways, and no amount of time will ever compensate for it. We must respect the memories of those lives.
When we are mindful of how far we have come as a nation, a culture, a people, we can then effectively address the present issues ... for all the underprivileged