People of Color (POC): Jews, Africans, And The Erroneous Assumptions We Make

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“If I can be controversial, I’d rather do it up front. Moses’ mama was black. If we just gon’ pick a fight, let’s just talk about his wife, Zipporah, who was a black woman. The Bible says in Numbers Chapter 12, she was a Cushite. And the area Kush is between Sudan and those places, Somalia in Africa, and the Bible even says that her skin was made black by the sun.” 

These words are from Pastor Keion Henderson, Founder and Senior Pastor of The Lighthouse Church & Ministries in Houston, Texas, and one of the individuals mentioned in a new article from The Christian Post (“Pastor Franklyn Richardson: ‘Black Church cannot be understood separately from civil rights movement’”). 

Notice that Pastor Henderson said “if I can be controversial,” so he’s aware that these statements tend to rile up theologians, regardless of race or persuasion. As a Pastor who is African, European, and double Native American (Native American on both sides), I find Henderson’s statements above controversial, though not for the same reasons as some. 

Let’s talk about those reasons below. 

“Moses’ Mama Was Black”

How do we know that “Moses’ mama was black”? Where’s the proof of that? Scripture teaches that Moses’ mother was Jochebed. There are only two references to Jochebed in Scripture, and they are found in Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59, where we are told that Jochebed was “his father’s sister,” that is, the paternal aunt of Amram. We are told in Numbers 26:59 that Jochebed was “the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt.” So Amram married his paternal aunt, who was born to Levi while Levi was in Egypt in bondage. Jochebed was born in Egypt, then. 

But does being born in Egypt make a person black? First off, Jochebed was a Jew. Her father, Levi, was an Israelite. So with that said, the nations around Israel in the Gentile world were not distinguished according to tribes; Israel had a distinct tribal structure, like Native Americans today have a distinct tribal structure. 

Africans have a distinct tribal structure as well, but Israel’s is not synonymous with African tribal structure. The two are not the same. There are numerous African tribes whereas Israel has 12 tribes and only 12 tribes to its national structure. All Jews can date themselves back to one of the twelve tribes, if not multiple (based on family history and ancestry). 

Next, Jochebed was born in Egypt. If someone is born in America today, that makes them “American.” Jochebed was born in Egypt, so in that sense, she is Egyptian. And yet, she was an Egyptian Jew: a Levite Jew (Levite being her tribe, she being the tribal head’s daughter) who was born in Egypt. 

But being “Egyptian” doesn’t make her black; it makes her Egyptian. In the same way, someone being born in South African is only “South African” because they have citizenship, not because they are racially African. 

There are instances of blacks who are born in the United Kingdom, or Germany, or France; does being born in Europe make someone a European citizen, or does it make them ethnically European (as in white)? These two types of European labels, like ethnicity and citizenship or birth country, must be distinguished. 

Take a dark-skinned individual who is born in Israel: does that make them Jewish because they are born in the Middle East? No. They are African (dark-skinned) and have ancestry in Africa, despite the fact they were born somewhere else (Israel). Now, they are technically an Israelite with Israelite citizenship, but again, having Israelite citizenship and being Jewish are two different things.

Being an Israelite is about citizenship, the land of one’s birth. Being Jewish, however, is about one’s ancestors. After all, the word “ancestry” is a compound word of “ancestor” and “story”; thus, “ancestry” is “ancestor story” – that is, the story of your ancestors, the people before you. 

Thus, your own ancestry is based on those who came before you, not you. With that being said, you are determined by the people before you; had you been placed in a different location and your parents had parents with different circumstances, you may have been a different race or multiracial identity than you are today. 

Jochebed was born in Egypt, but her father was a Jew named Levi. The Jews were historically Israelite and from the land of Israel. Remember what Exodus says in its opening chapter about the Jews in Egypt?: 

“8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens.” (Exodus 1:8-11, NKJV)

As the Israelites (Jews) grew, and were born in Egypt, they became a threat to the Egyptians. Notice that, no matter how many were born in Egypt, the Egyptians saw them as “the children of Israel.” They had Israelite ancestry because the people before them were born in Israel, not Egypt. 

And so, regardless of how many were born in Egypt, they would never be seen as anything more than Jewish. And just think: the Jews were in Egypt for 430 years. Think of all the Jews born in Egypt over four centuries. And even being born in Egypt, if they had been Egyptian citizens, still wouldn’t make them African any more than a black person born in Europe would make them racially European.

This is the same reason that, as I’ve said in previous articles, Jesus is not a black man: because Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (that is, southern Israel) but spent a few years in Egypt to escape Herod’s attempts to kill Him. Spending a few years in Egypt does not make Jesus Egyptian or African. 

Paul was born in Cilicia in Asia Minor (“Saul of Tarsus”), Gentile territory, and had Roman citizenship but he still referred to the Jews as “my kinsmen” or “my brethren according to the flesh” in Romans 9:3. His ancestry, his DNA, determined that he was Jewish, not the place in which he was born or raised or grew up. 

In the same vein, I’d dare say that Jochebed was born in Egypt, but she was Jewish because of her ancestors, her parents and grandparents. Being born in Egypt didn’t make her African/Egyptian. 

Additionally, though 430 years passed, the Jews were never referred to as “Egyptians” by God, but instead, “My people” (Exodus 3:7), and the Lord distinguished them from the Egyptians by referring to them as “the children of Israel” because that was the land of their ancestors, not necessarily the land they were born in (a large number were born in Egypt).

 Also, Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” after wrestling with the angel; so “the children of Israel” could very well be a reference to “Jacob’s descendants” instead of the geographic location Israel itself.

Moses, born in Egypt, was called “the Egyptians” by Jethro’s seven daughters when they spoke to their father (Exodus) due to the fact that he came from Egypt; even so, Moses wasn’t African but Jewish, born to Jewish parents. “A son of Levi” and “a daughter of Levi,” both Levitical Jews, are the parents of Moses (Exodus 2:1-2). And Moses is Jewish because his parents were Jewish and Levites. 

The Erroneous Assumptions We Make About People of Color (POC)

This discussion about Moses’ mother, Jochebed, brings up two assumptions that many erroneously make about People of Color. Moses’ mother was Jewish, as was his father, Amram, and thus, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. And, as Jewish people, they were Middle Eastern. 

Middle Easterners are people of color and have brown skin, as do some Asians. Asians, like Middle Easterns and Native Americans (those who have early American history but come from Asia themselves) have all types of skin tones, some darker and some lighter than others. There is even a group of Ethiopian Jews in the world, too. 

But not all People of Color (POC) are black. The reason? The person in question could be Asian, or Middle Eastern, or Pacific Islander (which also has ties to Native Americans), or even Filipino. Pacific Islanders have Madagascar ancestry, which is near the African coast, and some PIs are dark-skinned, but not all. 

When we use POC (acronymic for “People Of Color”) to refer to just African-Americans, Africans, or black people, we are exhibiting racial prejudice towards 1) Middle Easterners, 2) Native Americans, and 3) Asians at large because these groups are also people of color, or mixed groups. 

That’s not to say that these groups don’t have racial mixing, because they do, even if they may not like to admit it; but they also have brownish skin, and that designates them as people of color, even if they aren’t as dark as their African counterparts. 

The great Jewish genius Albert Einstein, who DNA has confirmed is related to me, was Jewish. He was a Person Of Color (POC) who did much for African-Americans. He partnered with the NAACP and made friends with the organization. However, he was not black but Jewish. While that made him a POC, a person of color, he was neither African nor black. 

Secondly, we assume that being born in a particular country makes a person a particular race. Keep in mind, however, that ancestry is “ancestor story,” the story of one’s ancestors. You are who you are because of the parents and grandparents that made you. Their stories, their journeys, are in your veins, and where they’ve been and their biological makeups influence and determine yours. A black person born in Italy is no more racially European than a Jew being born in Rome, Italy makes them racially European. Remember that.

African-Americans, blacks at large, have been victims of racial prejudice; the last thing we should want to do is discriminate against other People of Color (POC). Racism doesn’t look good on Europeans or anyone, for that matter. 

Neither does colorism look good on Africans or People of Color (POC).

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