In the wake of some erroneous remarks made in a discussion about the banning of the book Maus in relation to the Holocaust, Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended from the American television show “The View.” The cohost’s exact words were: “white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.” And: “It’s not about race. It’s about man’s inhumanity to man. That’s what it’s about.”
Now, obviously her comments were wrong. But there is a lot to unpack here.
To start, race is an artificial construct devised to separate classes of people in society for the purpose of exploitation, control, scapegoating and dehumanization. There is only one race of human beings on this planet. But even though there aren’t different races of human beings, racism does, in fact, exist. This form of social hatred, prejudice and discrimination only works because it builds upon the noxious myth of race.
The Holocaust was of course all about racism. The Nazis deliberately cast the Jews as inferior to the so-called Aryan race. Stereotypes, demonization and even pseudo-science were invented to promote these odious ideas. They held similar views toward the Roma, Sinti and many other ethnic or religious groups and they used this falsehood to carry out some of the most heinous crimes, experiments and murders in human history. Considering its brutal dictates, rampant violence, trains, concentration camps, and mechanized methods of death, there is no better example of industrialized genocide on this scale. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered in the short span of days. At the end of World War II millions would be dead.
In addition to this, Goldberg’s comments appear to make the Holocaust appear like a fight among equals. It was not. The Nazis used their considerable political influence, violence and military might to suppress and terrorize Germany and did the same to the countries they invaded. Millions died in the USSR alone in a campaign of utter annihilation.
But there are a lot of unspoken things in this latest controversy. How is it that a Black woman is censured for making ignorant comments, yet on the same program a white woman, Meghan McCain, was able to spout anti-Asian comments about Covid-19 with no censure from the television network? Anti-Asian hate crimes spiked in the Trump years due to this vicious rhetoric. And in a society where media figures like Tucker Carlson routinely trot out antisemitic conspiracies with barely an eyebrow raised, does Goldberg’s treatment send a message to people of color who dare “step out of line” for lesser offenses?
What’s fascinating to me is the timing of this. Amnesty International just released its damning report on the character of the Israeli state. It basically reached the same conclusions as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch: apartheid. And yet, the person called out to “school” Whoopi Goldberg is none other than Jonathon Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) whose controversial positions conflate antisemitism with the BDS Movement and anti-Zionism.
To Greenblatt, defining Israel as an apartheid state is tantamount to an attack on all Jewish people. It doesn’t matter to him that many Jewish and Israeli individuals, some of them prominent politicians, as well as Jewish human rights organizations, have agreed with this assessment. In truth, ADL’s history has been one of running PR defense for Israeli apartheid and war crimes far more than countering actual antisemitism in the US and around the world. And this latest “incident” provides a convenient distraction from media coverage of Amnesty’s findings.
Goldberg’s comments were undeniably erroneous, and antisemitism should be condemned as an abhorrent social hatred that has caused untold misery for millions of people. But she apologized for her remarks. Regardless of this, she was still punished. How many white people with enormous platforms like that receive the same censure? From what I could find: zero.
Kenn Orphan, February 2022
*Photo from The Guardian.