"This term, for one who is punished for the misdeeds of others, is the result of a mistranslation. The term was coined in 1530 by William Tyndale, who misread the Hebrew word ‘azazel, the proper name of Canaanite demon, as ‘ez ozel, literally the goat that departs. In Leviticus 16:8, the scriptures describe how two goats should be prepared for an offering, lots should be drawn, and one should be sacrificed to the Lord as a sin-offering, and the other given to Azazel and set free in the wilderness bearing the sins of the people. From Tyndale’s 1530 translation:"
In Seattle during the 1980’s positive thinking and black love compelled my mom to use positive affirmations when encouraging her children to take on life's challenges. I believe my mom felt, as though she was born into a class of unofficial scapegoats and she was determined to counter negative influences with positive reinforcement. It was not uncommon for her to tell me“ You can be anything you want, as long as you put your mind to it.” Of course, the unspoken rule behind this rhetoric was, if I failed to achieve my goals it was because I did not properly apply the strength of my mind.
I didn’t not fully understand the need for a scapegoat until my mother was dyeing. During the last few days of her life I would sit at the hospital and wait with my siblings, it was all we could do. She died on a sunny afternoon and we sat with the body for hours before finally leaving the hospital in the middle of the night, it somehow felt like we were abandoning her. I could not process the absences of her being. I kept thinking to myself, she was here, so where did she go? Months latter I would find myself alone getting mad about some unresolved issue between us an I'd yell out loud at some imaginary force. In those moments I wanted a scapegoat, someone or something to answer for what I was struggling with, to absorb it and take it away.
In life my mom could not protect me form circumstance and context. Many of her struggles were inherited as were mine. My struggles, like hers, are intertwined with the practices, beliefs and systematic workings of the world all of which have been passed down through generations. Sometimes there is no way to place blame because no one thing in our lives exists without our histories. When I think of the term scapegoat, I’m referencing a fantastical creature that surfaces whenever life becomes too heavy to process. A scapegoat is a mysterious force that is the essence of all that is wrong and bad in the world; it can be blamed for whatever goes wrong, it can be abused and shunned. Scapegoats are comforting, then instantly repulsive they are, by nature, a mirage.