Recently, Whoopi Goldberg was temporarily cancelled from the popular daytime television show The View for saying the Holocaust was about white people hurting each other and was not a form of racism. She joined the chorus of people apologizing for comments which would have gone unnoticed in the past.
Although her mother suggested a Jewish surname which would supposedly help her get a foothold in Hollywood, she claimed, “My mother did not name me Whoopi, but Goldberg is my name. It’s part of my family, part of my heritage, just like being black,” and “I just know I am Jewish. I practice nothing. I don’t go to temple, but I do remember the holidays.”
Researcher Henry Louis Gates Jr., profiling her on the PBS series Finding Your Roots, found that all of Goldberg’s traceable ancestors were African Americans, that she had no known Jewish ancestry and that none of her ancestors were named Goldberg.
Controversies about cultural appropriation, especially when black fashion, styles, music and language idioms are often adopted by white folks resulting in the originators not making the money they deserved, is not a moral equivalency to Whoopi’s lie. Not appropriation, just a mistake which unfortunately adds to the myth of Jewish control of Hollywood and the media which fuels anti-Semitism. The unusual last name did get her lots of attention at the onset of her career. But it was her sounding talent that got recognition.
Whoopi is only one of 16 entertainers to win the EGOT, which includes an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Tony Award. She is an astounding talent who was raised in public housing by a single mother.
Why she, a comedian, is also expected to know historical facts when she is a high school dropout who never had the privilege of taking AP European History is another indication of American society’s worshipful, unrealistic expectations of celebrities. We venerate them and then love to watch them fall.
In her case, it is extremely troubling that one comment from her perspective as a black person caused such a severe reaction.
Put Goldie Hawn, a Jew, next to Tyler Perry, a black and then Whoopi’s perception that a European Jew and a German are both Caucasian, should not have caused her humiliation, punishment and the necessity for a public apology.
Through the controversy, I did not hear any mention of her extraordinary, rare and artistically courageous performance about her visit to the Anne Frank House (available on YouTube).
With supreme facility and taste, in the middle of a comedy special, while elegantly providing laughs at appropriate places, she taught the audience about the horrors of the Holocaust. What a creative genius.
“Those people couldn’t move, had to be silent and still for 23 hours a day. I couldn’t do that. I’d like to think I could, but I have never been challenged.” She discourses on the meaning of Anne Frank’s iconic last words, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” The high school drop-out taught Holocaust history to every audience member.
As recently as 2017 she tweeted: “#AnneFrank is the single most important book that makes the case for why we should spend time fighting oppression and NOT each other.”
Even though the world is faced with an epidemic, likely irreversible climate disasters, possible war and other looming catastrophes, we are fighting each other, by comparison, over some inconsequential issues. I am afraid of listing some of these controversies getting mammoth amounts of attention in case I, too, get cancelled.
You are right, Whoopi. We should be fighting what is important and not each other. I apologize to you. Your attention to the Holocaust, as far as I am concerned, has earned you the name Goldberg!