Whoopi Goldberg expressed regret Tuesday for saying on “The View” a day earlier that race was not a factor in the Holocaust, saying she was “deeply, deeply grateful” for getting an education on the topic.
The flare-up over Goldberg’s remarks this week highlighted the enduring complexity of some race-related issues, including the widespread but strongly contested notion that only people of color can be victims of racism.
That appeared to be at the root of original comments by Goldberg, who is Black. On Monday’s episode of “The View,” she said the Holocaust was “not about race … it’s about man’s inhumanity to other man.” Panelists on the show had been talking about a Tennessee school board’s banning of “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Nazi death camps during World War II.
“My words upset so many people, which was never my intention,” she said. “I understand why now and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful because the information I got was really helpful and helped me understand some different things.”
“The View” brought on Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “It Could Happen Here,” on Tuesday to discuss why her words had been hurtful.
“Jewish people at the moment are feeling besieged,” Greenblatt said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised Goldberg for being outspoken over the years on social issues but said he struggled to understand her statement on the Holocaust.
“The only explanation that I have for it is that there is a new definition of racism that has been put out there in the public recently that defines racism exclusively as the targeting of people of color. And obviously history teaches us otherwise,” Cooper said.
“Everything about Nazi Germany and about the targeting of the Jews and about the Holocaust was about race and racism. That’s the unfortunate, unassailable historic fact,” he said.
Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, linked Goldberg’s remarks to broader misconceptions of the Holocaust, Jewish identity and antisemitism.
“In her error, she was reflecting a misunderstanding of Jewish identity that is both widespread and dangerous that is sometimes described as erasive antisemitism,” said Marcus, who is the author of “The Definition of Anti-Semitism.”
“It is the notion that Jews should be viewed only as being white, privileged oppressors,” he said. “It denies Jewish identity and involves a whitewashing of Jewish history.”
Marcus referred to the use of anti-Jewish stereotypes “about being powerful, controlling and sinister,” coupled with downplaying or denying antisemitism.