On ABC's The View on Monday, the women started talking about a school in Washington State cancelling To Kill a Mockingbird and one in Tennessee doing the same for Maus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning illustrative book about the Holocaust.
A bizarre remark followed, made by, ironically, an individual who professionally took on the surname "Goldberg," Whoopi commented "The Holocaust isn't about race." Momentarily interrupted, she continued "No, it's not about race. Because- it's- it's not about race.... It's about man's inhumanity to man.... Let's talk about what it is. It's about how people treat each other."
The following morning, Whoopi issued a (sort of) apology, which was as unnecessary as it was predictable. An apology wasn't appropriate because the comments were far less anti-Semitic than they were stupid. And everyone is stupid at one time or another, some of us more often than others.
Whoopi Goldberg doesn't appear to be anti-Semitic nor especially hateful. She is no Linda Sarsour. Instead, Whoopi merely had to be corrected and her audience assured that Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, who argued that Aryans (whomever they are) were the superior race, were wrong in believing that Jews are inferior and that they constitute a race. The show's first guest, B'nai B'rith CEO Joseph Greenblatt, made that point when he explained
You see, Hitler's ideology, the Third Reich, was predicated on the idea that the Aryans, the Germans, were a "master race" and the Jews were a sub-human race. It was a raciailzed Anti-Semitism. Now that might not fit exactly or feel different than the way we think about race in 21st century America, where primarily it's about people of color but throughout the Jewish People's history they have been marginalized. They have been persecuted; they have been slaughtered in large part because many people felt they were not just a different religion but indeed a different race....
Slaughtered in large part because many people felt they were not just a different religion but indeed a different race.
If Whoopi on Monday had maintained that the Holocaust was about race only because the Nazis made it that way, that it was more generally an attack upon the people of a religion, her message would have been accurate. An allegation that the Nazi movement was ultimately about how people treat each other, she would at least have been philosophically debatable. The Holocaust, though, was specifically the effort by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen to annihilate the people identifying with the religion of Judaism.
We know "Jewish" is not a race. And notwithstanding the phrase "Jewish-American" disturbingly gaining popularity recently, it is not a nationality.
"Breaking news from Mt. Sinai: Judaism is a religion," we are reminded by God. Among the many points made by Jonathan Greenblatt on The View, that may be the one most ignored, but it would be our peril