Whoopi Goldberg is Not Antisemitic

Granted there are black people that, unfortunately, harbor antisemitic feelings. I’ve seen it. This could have been influenced by Farrakhan, or maybe a real or imagined sense that certain music producers who happen to be Jewish may or may not have taken advantage of black artists. Maybe some black people, in their kinship with other oppressed peoples, sympathize with Palestinians. What does that have to do with Jews in Brooklyn? Or Jews in Israel on the left. Israel is a country. Do people hate all Americans because they disagree with Democrats or Republicans? The extrapolation from grievances towards specific Jewish people to Jews as a whole is the very definition of antisemitism. And this happens, and it is unfortunate.

But it bothers me to see, over and over again, the vilification, by self-professed antisemitic watch dogs, of black people who should be our allies in the fight against racial injustice as a whole.

Whoopi Goldberg is a perfect example. She said that the holocaust wasn’t about race, and was suspended without pay for daring to voice this thought, and then walked it back, said she was wrong, and the attacks persist. Dave Chappelle, who has also had similar charges levied against him made a good point in his defense of Kyrie Irving. He pointed out that although Jews have been through some really horrible stuff, one thing he is sure of, is that it wasn’t the fault of black people.

It’s not that black people can’t be antisemitic, or can’t be wrong about the holocaust, or that Jews can’t be racist either. It’s that Jews and Black people have both historically been oppressed. We can argue about whether the holocaust was worse than slavery or the genocide of Native Americans too. Maybe it was. It’s not really a contest. The history of all three of these peoples, and many more who suffer, are directionally the same. Our real enemies want us fighting. That’s how they win. The way we win is that we make peace with those with whom we have common ground.

We should be meeting at the table to learn from each other. We should not be joining the fray against other oppressed groups. It is wasted energy to attack Whoopi, or Dave, or Kyrie (Ye – he might be a different story). That energy is better spent elsewhere.

Does it really matter if someone doesn’t think the holocaust was about race? Is that thought so unforgivable? Judaism is a religion, isn’t it? Hitler may have viewed Jews as a race. Are we going to fight with each other over whether we all see it the way he saw it? Or he may have just needed a scapegoat for power. I don’t know. I could philosophize on this on either side without ever suggesting that exterminating 6 million jews, and 9 million people overall (and that doesn’t count those who died on the battlefield) was anything other than a blight upon humanity.

I know Whoopi. We grew up in the same very diverse neighborhood in New York City. Her mom and my mom worked together. We’ve hung out. She’s not the enemy, and the discussion that needs to happen won’t happen if people like Whoopie and Dave and Kyrie (and even Ye) don’t speak their minds.

We need to change the way people think and we need to know who is worth the effort. We need to strengthen our bonds with open minded people, like Whoopi, when they stand corrected. And even if they won’t change their minds, even if they won’t be made to apologize, we need to find common ground and stop wasting our time in-fighting.


2 thoughts on “Whoopi Goldberg is Not Antisemitic

  1. I’m not sure how to respond to this. On the one hand, being Jewish and having been a slave unto Pharaoh in Egypt, a story we perpetuate year after year, I have always felt an affinity to black peoples who arrived in the Americas as slaves and are now free men. We have that commonality. However, Jews are human beings after all, and embody all the faults of humankind. I see what is happening in Israel, the anti-Arab sentiment of the far right, and I feel that we should be better than that. Yes, we were slaves, we should not be suppressing the rights of those who are marginalized any more than our rights were suppressed all through the Middle Ages by Europeans looking under the bed for boogymen. I have also learned an awful lot from singing in a United Church choir about the kind of guy Jesus was and how he wanted to raise up the dregs of society and free them from oppression. Maybe all it means, really, is that when a people that was once the underdog is raised up and starts to cast stones, their humanity is showing. We are more alike than we are dissimilar, and the proof is not in our love of our fellow man, but just the opposite.


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