Whoopi Goldberg was suspended as a host of the ABC daytime talk show The View for two weeks for supposedly “hurtful comments” about the European Holocaust when Nazi Germany murdered six million Eastern European Jew in a systematic act of genocide. According to Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, “While Whoopi has apologized, I’ve asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments.” Goodwin added, “The entire ABC News organization stands in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities.”
Whoopi Goldberg, who is African American, identifies as Jewish. I identify as a Jew from a European background and I was not offended by Goldberg’s remarks, although I believe her statements were incorrect.
During discussion of the banning of To Kill the Mocking Bird and Maus by school boards, Whoopi Goldberg said the Holocaust was about “white people doing it to white people.” Later Goldberg argued “Let’s be truthful about this, the Holocaust is not about race . . . it’s was about man’s inhumanity to man.” When one of the other panelists responded that the Holocaust was about “white supremacy,” Goldberg said, “these are two white groups of people.” She also stressed, “it is necessary for [kids] to learn about man’s inhumanity to man, however it exposes itself.” It is worth watching the entire segment to understand that Whoopi Goldberg was arguing about the importance of students learning about the Holocaust and not minimizing it.
Some of things Whoopi Goldberg said during the discussion were incorrect, but she has definitely been wronged. Goldberg should never have been suspended.
Whoopi Goldberg was correct that Jews do not constitute a distinct race, but she was clearly not familiar with Nazi ideology about “race.” According to the United States Holocaust Museum, Nazi Germany considered Jews a separate and inferior race, “parasitic vermin” that needed to be eradicated to protect a pure Aryan race.
Nazi racist ideology divided human beings into a number of races with distinct physical and psychological characteristics. Many Nazi attitudes and anti-Semitic laws were actually based on racist Jim Crow laws in the American South. Adolf Hitler praised racist policies in the United States in his political manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). Hitler saw American treatment of its indigenous population and enslaved Africans as a precedent justifying German treatment of Jews. After passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 legalizing Nazi racist beliefs, German legal experts visited the United States to study how this country implemented racist practices including quota laws that restricted Jewish immigration and one drop of blood laws used to decide who was Black and subject to discrimination. Although the Holocaust was white Europeans doing it to white Europeans, in the Nazi’s view their treatment of Jews was racial.
During this broadcast of The View, Whoopi Goldberg was defending the importance of children learning about the Holocaust. Banning Whoopi makes people fearful of speaking and shuts down discussion of the Holocaust instead of opening it up. It is no better than banning the books highlighted in during the show. Whoopi was wrong and she apologized for it. Being wrong doesn’t make someone anti-Semitic and in need of sensitivity training. It means they need to be educated.
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