What Whoopi Goldberg’s Statement Teaches us about Anti-Semitism
Despite attempts to combat Anti-Semitism, it continues to permeate around us. There is still dangerous misinformation and prejudice that exist, even subtly on daytime talk-shows. On January 31, Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of The View and an acclaimed cultural icon, stated emphatically; “The Holocaust is not about race, it is about man’s inhumanity to man”. The statement received an immediate adverse reaction by most of the public (Jews and non-Jews alike) and was deeply disturbing. It brought to light the fact that there are educated people who remain ignorant with inaccurate perceptions of the Holocaust and prejudice against Jews.
Goldberg’s statement makes us question the integrity of the education of the Holocaust. We all know the power that words and propaganda can have on a country, a world, and a people. A simple statement has the power to take on a life of its own and escalate into prejudice, violence, and persecution. As a cultural icon, Goldberg has immense influence on the values and opinions of others, and her network acknowledged this by taking immediate action to suspend her from the show for two weeks. According to a study referred to in the Times of Israel, 63% of of adults under 40 didn’t know that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, and 10% of those participants had not even heard of the word “Holocaust”. These troubling statistics demonstrate the vast ignorance and unawareness which is especially significant in our present environment, as Anti-Semitism pervades within our communities. Goldberg apologized, though some thought insincerely, and unfortunately words can not be unsaid.
Goldberg’s statement completely obscured the fact that the Holocaust was a matter of genocide by an Aryan “race” against a targeted group, not just an isolated act of cruelty. It undermined the fact that all of our persecutions throughout our history as a Jewish people, especially the Holocaust, have been based on targeted hatred and prejudice. Her comments raised the questions, “Are we as Jews a race? Are we a religion? An ethnic group? All of the above? We know that we are united by our common values and history. It is imperative that we understand that we are a unified people so that we can show and teach the world the same.