Whoopi Goldberg made an uninformed—and therefore harmful—series of comments about the Holocaust, both on The View and on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And then…Well. The situation just got worse, like, infinite levels of worse.
There are so many layers of messed up in the news surrounding Goldberg’s bad take on history and subsequent suspension from The View, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess we should start with Whoopi putting her foot in her mouth, explain why it was a huge mistake, and go from there.
So, here we go.
Whoopi was right about Tennessee and Maus
When Goldberg, and her fellow hosts of The View, sat down to discuss the recent trash decision by a Tennessee school district to ban Maus from its curriculum, the situation should have been pretty clear cut: This wrong.
To be fair to Whoopi, she did at least get this part of the discussion right.
According to the supposed “educators” in question, the nudity and language were just too horrible to handle. Using “some nudity and some bad language” as your excuse for clutching your pearls over a Holocaust story is pathetic.
“It’s about the Holocaust! The killing of six million people…But that didn’t—that didn’t bother you.”Whoopi Goldberg on The View, January 31, 2022
But unfortunately for Whoopi Goldberg, she has something in common with a large number of Millennials and Gen. Zs: She’s “unclear about the basic facts” of the Holocaust. And that ignorance showed up in a big way. If we want to nitpick, the “six million people” in question needs to be qualified as six million Jewish people. Roughly five million others also perished.
Here’s where it all went wrong
Which brings us to the huge failure in Whoopi Goldberg’s understanding of history: She…seems to think the Holocaust wasn’t about racism. On The View, she said it was “white people doing it to white people. Y’all go fight amongst yourselves,” and that sparked a a lot of angry comments—as it should have. That would have been bad enough.
But she added another layer of cringe: Goldberg was given the opportunity to “clarify” her statements on The Late Show. As in, she doubled down. Whoopi claimed the backlash came about because “people feel very differently” than her. It wasn’t that they were upset and she wasn’t, though. The “people” she was talking about had a different “feeling” about race’s role in the Shoah.
But it’s not about a feeling here. It is a fact that nazis systematically tortured and murdered Jews. The fact is that the nazis wanted to exterminate all members of the Jewish “race.” Or, at least, what they considered a race. (We’ll get to why that last part is messy in a moment.)
During the Holocaust, European Jews were ripped away from their homes. Families were separated. People were rounded up and deported to ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps. Names became numbers. Victims were starved to death, worked to death, shot. They suffered so many more atrocities, like Mengele’s experiments. Human beings were dehumanized, labeled as “vermin,” forced to stand outside naked for inspections—regardless of weather. There were, of course, the infamous gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Inmates were even forced even to bury and or cremate their own people after these mass murders…
The Jewish people suffered horror beyond the imagination. We can not begin to list it all here. And it all happened because of the nazi interpretation of race.
“Jews were an ‘alien race’ that fed off the host nation, poisoned its culture, seized its economy, and enslaved its workers and farmers. The Nazis claimed that ‘race mixing’ through marriage weakened Germany.”Source: United States Holocaust Museum, “Defining The Enemy” (Link: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/defining-the-enemy)
None of this was as simple as Whoopi Goldberg’s “white on white” misconception would lead you to believe. That’s especially true because anyone else “deemed racially inferior” also had a target on their backs. And if anything in our list of crimes against humanity makes you uncomfortable? Good.
Whoopi’s understanding of the Holocaust, on the other hand…is not good. And she continued to show it:
“This wasn’t based on a skin. You couldn’t tell who was Jewish. They had to delve deeply to figure it out…You can’t tell who’s Jewish. It’s not something that people say, ‘oh. That person is Jewish.'”
…except people did say that. Some even still do. There were actual drawings of “Jewish” features. See also: the stereotypical big/hooked nose, which persists in modern-day pop culture.
“It is virtually impossible to find a single piece of propaganda from the time that does not feature an exaggeratedly large, grotesque, hooked nose when depicting Jews. As a viewer, it is easy to see how these strikingly evil and sub-human looking images stayed with those who saw them—subtly entrenching the association between Jews and large noses, using this ‘defining characteristic’ to encourage people to identify, and discriminate against Jews.
As Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher wrote in the children’s book Der Giftpilz, which translates to The Poisonous Mushroom.
‘One can most easily tell a Jew by his nose. The Jewish nose is bent at its point. It looks like the number six. We call it the ‘Jewish six.’ Many Gentiles also have bent noses. But their noses bend upwards, not downwards. Such a nose is a hook nose or an eagle nose. It is not at all like a Jewish nose.‘(Source: https://www.media-diversity.org/understanding-the-antisemitic-history-of-the-hooked-nose-stereotype/)
Were the nazis right? Obviously not. Not all Jews look a certain way. We don’t even all have the same skin color, for what it’s worth. The question of whether or not the Jewish people are a race is both complicated and simple. Judaism isn’t a race. We should not be defined by the people who hate us. And yet, white Jews are…not considered white by people who “other” us.
The idea of Jews as a “people” is a much more accurate way of putting it. But even that is not universally accepted. After all, there’s the old joke about asking two Jews for an opinion…and getting three answers.
But at the end of the day, whether Whoopi Goldberg feels some kind of way about it or not, the Holocaust was rooted in the nazis’ definition of race. As such, yes, the systematic murder of millions was about racism.
Whoopi Goldberg’s suspension from The View just makes matters worse
If I’m being fully honest as both a Jew and as someone who has extensively studied the Holocaust—most thoroughly as part of Goucher College’s Oral History course—hearing Whoopi Goldberg’s conversation with Stephen Colbert made me physically ill. And no, it wasn’t about me thinking she was antisemitic. Some folks put that accusation out there. In my opinion, it’s wrong.
My sick feeling actually ties back to what started this whole mess: Maus being removed from McMinn County’s curriculum. The memory of what happened during the Holocaust is fading. Right now, it feels like we’re in the process of murdering the victims all over again. We’re erasing the very few remaining survivors while they’re forced to sit back and watch. Society’s ignorance is handing the nazis what they wanted all along. We are forgetting their victims, and we are allowing our own racism to fester.
All of this brings us to Whoopi Goldberg being suspended from The View. She’d already apologized, citing Jonathan Grenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League’s response to her putting her foot in her mouth.
Suspending Whoopi Goldberg does absolutely nothing to fix the harm her incorrect statements caused. No one will learn anything from this. This could have been used an opportunity for The View to delve more deeply into the subject. Imagine the good that interviewing survivors or speaking to scholars may have done. God forbid, someone could have even mentioned additional educational resources.
But no. Nothing good happened. Instead, Whoopi has been silenced. She won’t get to share any new discovery she may make with her audience. After all, we all know she won’t be allowed to bring this up when she returns. If she does, nothing of substance will make it to air.
But wait! It gets even worse than that.
There are countless examples of people—actual, virulent antisemites—who have been given major platforms and have never been so-called “canceled.” Even those who have been make triumphant returns, their hatred casually swept under the rug. See also: Mel Gibson was dubbed “family-friendly” in 2017, despite his utterly deplorable history. But hey, he’s still getting important gigs.
A Black woman could be punished for making a mistake overnight, just in time for Black History Month, no less. But you’ve got your Gibsons, your Tucker Carlsons (basically everyone at Faux Newz, really), and countless other white people saying things that are actually intended to be harmful. They get away with it, usually for years at a stretch. The broad majority never face any consequences, whatsoever.
Even The View isn’t free from that double standard: Meghan McCain was sure allowed to spew a bunch of racist garbage for years with no repercussions. (Unless you count angry tweets, which I don’t). And, I really can’t qwhite figure out why that might be.
Whoopi Goldberg deserved to be told she was wrong about the facts—because she was. She deserved to hear that she hurt people—because she did. But no, she didn’t deserve to be the sacrificial lamb here. And she sure didn’t deserve the disgusting racists coming onto social media to comment on her apology, some supposedly because they were standing up for Jewish people in the process (they weren’t) and most just openly proving how much they hate both Black and Jewish people.
Furthermore, and here’s a real genius kicker in all of this: “Canceling” or silencing Whoopi Goldberg because she made a mistake about the Holocaust…just…played…into…antisemitic tropes about Jewish control: Whoopi messed with those evil “other” pulling all the strings, after all. She must be punished for it. And Twitter trolls latched on. I’m not quoting them here but…Search the quote tweets on either Whoopi’s apology or any news items about the suspension, and you’ll find folks playing into the idea of a global Jewish conspiracy.
ABC screwed this one up. So hard. They have done more harm than good. Actually, they did major harm. The network’s leaders exposed their racism by tokenizing Whoopi’s punishment, and they played into the global control nonsense. Spoiler alert: That, too, was used as part of nazi propaganda…And how much good did they do? Zero. None at all.
Basically, fuck The View. And I truly hope Whoopi Goldberg turns out to be the kickass person I always believed she was. She’s in a position to learn from this garbage situation and turn it into something good. Then again, why does a Black woman always have to do the work to make things better? Non-Jewish white folks, get off your asses. Listen to survivors while you still can. Learn and educate others.
The rest of us are exhausted.