The Joseph Syndrome

Because innocence as a Black Person is deemed impossible.

Living while Black is a true phenomenon. I have been on the receiving end of such injustices. There is a pervasive mindset, whether or not it’s uttered, about who Black people are, and the types of identity concepts imputed collectively upon this race.

Black people, as a whole, and I include Africans because I am a direct African descent and there is no distinction made when discrimination is applied upon us as well, are treated in inhumane ways and stripped off their collective humanity.

I like to call it, The Joseph Syndrome.

Everyone on some level, religious or not, has or should have, heard about the story of Joseph. For those who haven’t, it is a Hebraic story (or historic event made into a story) about a young guy who was sold off by his siblings, out of envy and jealousy and forced into the life of slavery. In his slavery, he is hired on by a benevolent rich Egyptian, who, after seeing the integrity of Joseph toward him, promotes him to oversee his household; kind of like a Butler or Personal Assistant.

Anyway, once promoted, he was ogled by the Egyptian’s Wife, who attempted to convince Joseph to sleep with her. He refuses and is unjustly accused by the Egyptian’s Wife for not committing adultery with her. She lies that Joseph raped her, and, without any investigation into the matter, is punished by being thrown into jail.

Joseph, once again, faces injustice but is treated honorably by the prison guard over time (refer to Genesis 37 & 39 for better illustration).

You might wonder why this story was mentioned in this article. I mentioned it because, like Joseph, a lot of Black People are wrongly accused of things they did not do, and are consequently punished upon this falsehood. This is not to say that Black people have not committed atrocities, but rather the overrepresentation and demonization of Black people as a whole.

Like Joseph, people immediately believe bad reports made about Black People. So much so that no second thought is put into the motive behind such accusations, and the punishment extended toward the perceived offender ends up being unwarranted and profoundly unjust.

I, as a Black Woman, as labeled by this society, have, at many times, been wrongly accused of things I am guiltless of. They are disrespectful as they are offensive. Some of these things include, but are not limited to:

  1. Implicitly accused of having experienced unplanned pregnancy or supposed “abortion”: I cannot tell you how many times these accusations have been made against me. With no real basis except my race as the determinant of said “acts”. An offensive, RACIST and bigoted accusation.
  2. I supposedly “have” a “criminal past”: this, too, is another accusation that has been leveled against me. A significantly offensive and racist one at that.
  3. I cannot make sound decisions, or inept at doing things judiciously: while not blatantly mentioned, it is often implied and covertly mentioned when they think it their business to ‘advise’ you. Advice that was never sought out in the first place.
  4. Financially inept: this ties back to the judiciousness in decisions. I cannot tell you how many times it has been insinuated that I have bad and/or delinquent credit, especially by people who do not know me. With neither verification or evidence to this fact. Just the imposition based off their prejudiced — albeit racist notions people have about Black people and money.
  5. I am uneducated: I cannot mention HOW MANY TIMES people have assumed that I have no education or did not complete post-secondary education. There is no basis for this truth, except for the racist notion that Black people are intellectually inept. When YOU DO provide evidence, you are labeled as being a liar, impostor, or some other narrative to diminish your academic accomplishments.
  6. That one Black person’s experiences, decisions, lifestyle and outlook in life, is somehow representative of ALL Blacks and our individualized and nuanced experiences and worldview: sure, there may be some commonalities in our experiences; as we have, on some level, faced discrimination and racism. Much like I’m a woman and have faced sexism on some level like every woman in every part of the world. Doesn’t mean my worldview is identical with all women. It would be foolish to think that. Yet this is always done when it comes to all Blacks from all walks of life. Like we are all animals with identical and indistinguishable qualities. Racist and offensive.

There are more to this list. The underlying fact is that Black People, as a race, are often criminalized and generally perceived as being morally deviant, and actionably questionable. So much so that, you are no longer allowed to live your life like everybody else; you are automatically labeled and deemed suspicious and consequently treated as though you are one. Much like Joseph being perceived as a rapist by the Egyptian and consequently punished like an offender.

It matters not if it is the truth; as a Black person, you are automatically deemed guilty until proven innocent. And, even then, a Black person’s innocence is viewed with utter skepticism because Black People are not seen as innocent, or victims of oppressive and racist structures determined to criminalize us. Because, at the end of the day, Black people are not believed to be good; we are ideated as being inherently evil and deviant.

As if the hyper-existence of melanin in a particular group of people, is the basis by which taxonomy can be applied. Suddenly, we are categorized in the same manner that animals are classified and are thus reduced into lesser beings. Even animals have better rights.

As I age, I feel remarkably unsafe as a Black person in the West. And even the rest of the world. It is clear there is a de-emphasis of my humanity — if it is even acknowledged to exist; a fixation of any real or perceived faults. Often perceived and unjustly applied upon me, and a general disregard for the injustices the Black World faces for having a pigmented skin-tone and coiler hair texture.

The Joseph Syndrome exists. Perhaps in other groups as well. But particularly so with Black People.



Musings from an Observer. Global Nomad. Life-long learner and surveyor of truth. Looking through the right lens.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ola A.

Musings from an Observer. Global Nomad. Life-long learner and surveyor of truth. Looking through the right lens.