Clarence Page | Whoopi Goldberg’s opportune learning moment – and ours | Columns

I’ve been hesitant to say anything about Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks that resulted in her suspension from ABC’s “The View” until I can figure out precisely what to be offended about.

I have long believed – and often written – that an offense based on innocent ignorance, not malicious intent, should be corrected by knowledge, not punishment, unless it continues to reoffend.

But he was already too late.

Goldberg, the much-loved EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) comedian and actress, born Caryn Elaine Johnson, was promptly suspended for two weeks — a milder punishment, I imagine, than outright embarrassment.

Ironically, the dust began with a vigorous discussion of censorship, the removal from eighth-grade reading lists by a Tennessee school board of Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

The school board’s objection? The novel, which uses hand-drawn illustrations of animals as characters to illustrate his parents’ horrific experiences as Polish Jews sent to Nazi concentration camps, contains swear words and an illustration of nudity, which n is hardly inappropriate for a genocidal horror story. .

Whoopi’s offense was to repeatedly insist on last Monday’s show that the Holocaust was “not about race.”

Rather, she said, it was about “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Without a doubt. But Goldberg muddied his message by resisting the idea that “inhumanity” was both racist and anti-Semitic.

Co-host Joy Behar correctly claimed that the Nazis “considered the Jews a different race.”

And guest co-host Ana Navarro wasn’t far off in her assertion that “this is about white supremacy.”

But Whoopi pushed back: “It’s white people doing it to white people,” she said. “So you’re all going to fight amongst yourselves.”

Not enough. Not all Jews are white, for one thing. Second, there was no doubt that Hitlerite and Nazi beliefs targeted Jews as a dangerous “race” that needed to be exterminated.

“Racism was central to Nazi ideology,” the United States Holocaust Museum tweeted on Monday. “The Jews were not defined by religion, but by race. Nazi racist beliefs fueled genocide and mass murder.

It was no wonder, then, that Goldberg’s opinions on ‘The View’ led her to apologize for the rest of the day, including on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’, where she said, ” I’m very upset that people misunderstood what I was saying.”

She apologized more extensively the next day to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

“I understand,” she said. “I felt different. I respect everything everyone tells me and I don’t want to pretend to apologize. … I’m very upset that people misunderstood what I was saying.

You know you’ve hurt a lot of nerves when you have to apologize twice.

I don’t remember her apologizing this much, if at all, when Ted Danson, who she was dating at the time, showed up in blackface to roast her at a so-called unofficial roast of the Hollywood Friars Club in 1993 with an array of N-word jokes and obscene comments about their supposed sex life.

But irreverence to conventional norms has long been part of his mark. I even defended her, among other things, in the film version of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” against black critics who disliked her depiction of Black-on-Black domestic violence. It’s art. It’s showbiz.

Call this teachable moment Whoopi. As a fellow African American, I was less surprised than disappointed by his insensitivity to the pain and complexity of identity and hate at the intersection of racism and anti-Semitism.

These questions have unfortunately taken on new life recently. As Whoopigate boiled over, the FBI announced six minors as persons of interest in a series of bomb threats that historically targeted black colleges and universities.

The number of hate groups active in this country has declined over the past year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported last week, but new white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations are more widespread and no less dangerous.

And a Department of Homeland Security bulletin warns of an increased threat across the country from domestic violent extremists.

Yet it has become fashionable in local school districts to demonize studies of America’s racial history and anything that might cause “uncomfortable” to students, even in high school.

We need more teachable moments, lest we forget.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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