Have you been following the recent controversy with Whoopi Goldberg? She got in trouble with her statement claiming the Holocaust wasn’t about race but about man’s inhumanity to man. Immediately she had to duck and cover as the barrage of abusive artillery rained down upon her. Never has public discourse been at such a low ebb, where anything you say can be fodder for attack and much of it, hiding behind the shield of the Internet, hateful and abusive.
I’ve enjoyed Whoopi Goldberg’s work and in many ways, that’s entirely besides the point. What’s important is to think about what she said and consider it in a way that allows us to emerge from a discussion with a larger understanding. Without the personal attacks or over-inflated emotion (though of course, the Holocaust and race both carry enormous emotional charges.). Since Whoopi hasn’t called me up to discuss the issue, I’ll use this venue to air my point of view.
I understand how she might come to see race as a literal black and white issue and when white people killed white people, it didn’t seem to come under that umbrella. Yet it feels entirely off the mark to put that horror of the Holocaust on the “man’s inhumanity to man" shelf. In this imaginary debate, some talking points to consider:
1) “Man’s inhumanity to man” rarely (or never) comes from some random propensity toward hatred and violence. As the South Pacific musical song says, “You’ve got to be taught how to hate.” That requires an ideological construct that burrows into people’s brain, purposefully perpetrated by those in power who gain from brainwashing people. Despite the portrayal of hand-wringing malevolent- snickering evil villains in the movies, most people doing horrific things are convinced it’s in the name of some elevated purpose like freedom or doing God’s will.
2) The ideology that fueled the Holocaust was the mythology of The Master Race. Let me highlight that: Master Race.The notion that the blonde-haired blue-eyed Aryans (Hitler was 1 for 2 in those categories) were superior to the lesser races of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs was used to justify the slaughter. It was ordained that the lesser races were slated for domination and destruction and thus, the dominators were perfectly aligned with the notions they were fed and could sleep peacefully at night. In exactly the same way Southern slave owners excused themselves.
In short, the Holocaust was entirely about race. One might argue it was also about economics (the Jews ran many of the businesses), but the race card was the one that justified all subsequent horrors.
3) It should be noted that homosexuals, intellectuals and even jazz-lovers were also fair game for the concentration camps, but that again was racially justified, seeing them as impurities and impediments to the Aryan ideal.
My disappointment with Whoopi’s apology on the Stephen Colbert show is that she didn’t seem to use this opportunity to enlarge her perspective, but simply said she was sorry that people misunderstood her and in the future, she would keep her mouth shut on the subject. That felt like an unsatisfying response.
Before posting this, I looked into the situation a little more and found this statement:
"On today's show, I said the Holocaust 'is not about race, but about man's inhumanity to man.' I should have said it is about both," Goldberg tweeted. "As Jonathan Greenblatt from the Anti-Defamation League shared, 'The Holocaust was about the Nazi's systematic annihilation of the Jewish people — who they deemed to be an inferior race.' I stand corrected."
While I still politely suggest that while it might be about both, the racial justification is the larger percentage and the important one to understand. Not much we can do about “man’s inhumanity to man,” but helping people understand how evil is justified by the smokescreen of good and has been used to fuel racial hatred and injustice, that’s something that anyone willing to use their brain cells. can come to understand and re-align their thinking, perspective, morality and action.
The story goes on. The View Show she’s a part of suspended her for two weeks for her comments, even after her apology. Really? The ex-Pres can tweet out unrelenting hate speech and 20,000 lies and his Repugnantican posse can continue to gleefully spread their warped perceptions and ugly speech on Fox News and there’s no consequence? I've never once, not once, heard any of them say, "I stand corrected."
Is the View Show’s action yet another example of “man’s inhumanity to man?” (or man to woman or woman to woman) or is that about race? Food for thought.