Column: Whoopi’s Petty Distinctions

Silly sideshows dominate much of the news on Israel and other Jewish and general issues. So much so that keeping up with them amounts to “posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes,” to quote Tevye as he croons “If I were a rich man” in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Whoopi Goldberg, who reportedly lacks Jewish ancestry, and the more obscure Amy Wax, a Jewish professor, both analyzed racial aspects that could not be more irrelevant to the larger issues that are important to American lives.

Goldberg told her co-hosts on “The View” on Monday that the Holocaust was not about race but rather two conflicting groups of white people. At the University of Pennsylvania, Wax’s concern with Asians as a threat to America percolated to a boil in recent weeks.

“The Holocaust isn’t about race,” Goldberg declared on Monday, but rather about “man’s inhumanity to man…these (Jews and Nazis) are two white groups of people.”

Goldberg and her four co-hosts were discussing a Tennessee school board’s removal of the Holocaust book “Maus” from its curriculum last month, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). All five opposed the board’s decision, saying that it should be taught in classrooms, but Goldberg said this was not of a racial nature. JTA added that she lacks Jewish ancestry.

Co-host Joy Behar argued that Nazis “considered Jews a different race,” and guest co-host Ana Navarro added that “it’s about white supremacy, it’s about going after Jews and Gypsies, yet Goldberg persisted, saying, “The minute you turn it into race, you go down this alley.”

Goldberg, also a prominent actor, apologized Monday evening, tweeting that she should have said the Holocaust “is about both” inhumanity and race. “The Jewish people around the world have always had my support and that will never waiver,” she wrote. “I’m sorry for the hurt I have caused.”

She dug a deeper hole for herself when she appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Monday night, pointing out how she is more vulnerable because she is Black. “If the Klan is coming down the street and I’m standing with a Jewish friend…I’m gonna run. But if my friend decides not to run, they’ll get passed by most times, because you can’t tell who’s Jewish. It’s not something that people say, ‘Oh that person is Jewish.’”

Colbert then pointed out that the Nazis saw Jews as a different race. “The Nazis lied,” Goldberg responded.

We can concede that “the Nazis lied” a lot about a wide range of matters, but delving into all these details takes us far afield from what is significant. We can agree that both Jews and Blacks were victimized by horrifying events – Jews in the Holocaust and Blacks in slavery.

Goldberg was splitting hairs in denying race as a factor in the Holocaust. What we are left with are events in which two powerful groups – the Nazis during World War II and white plantation owners for almost four centuries – abused their dominance over two vulnerable minority groups with some of the most dehumanizing means possible.

While she is splitting hairs, Goldberg can acknowledge that this is not only about “man’s inhumanity to man.” As a male, I take exception. There were women who were loyal Nazis as well as Jewish women who were exterminated. If anyone thinks I sound petty here, are you attacking my right to split hairs?

In Philadelphia, Penn’s law school last month launched a faculty review process of Professor Amy Wax’s comments that could lead to a range of actions, from a letter of reprimand to termination of employment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Wax’s statements about Africans and Asians have enraged students and city officials since 2017 when an op-ed she wrote stated, “All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.”

In a subsequent interview, she said she didn’t think she had ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class at Penn Law and “rarely, rarely in the top half,” according to the Inquirer. Law school dean Ted Ruger later refuted her claim.

This past December, during a podcast with Brown University economist Glenn Loury, she said immigration policies should be geared toward “cultural compatibility” and called “the influx of Asian elites…problematic.”

Later, Wax wrote on Loury’s site that “as long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”

Third-year law student Apratim Vidyarthl wrote in an op-ed that Wax has also said that Asians have a “single-minded focus on self-advancement, conformity and obsequiousness, lack of deep post-Enlightenment conviction, timidity toward centralized authority (however unreasoned), indifference to liberty, lack of thoughtful and audacious individualism, and extensive tolerance for bossy, mindless social engineering, etc.” Wikipedia reports that Wax is Jewish.

Wax’s bias is the driving force in these protests, but it is ridiculous that she would take the time to psychoanalyze these cultural traits and histories, even if there is truth to it. None of these aspects are listed as qualifications to apply for American citizenship or as “important responsibilities” once one becomes a citizen.

Almost forgot. There is a citizen responsibility that applies to these situations. The eighth and final one reads: “Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.”

Have Wax and Goldberg fulfilled their #8 responsibility? Or are they behind the 8-ball?

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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One comment

  1. re Whoopi
    race in my life, refers to skin color, not ethnicity;
    i am Jewish and would not be insulted by her statements

    yes hitler used the word race but we know how dumb he was so let the word describe: skin color or competition