Individuals and groups across the country were full of rage when Whoopi Goldberg stated that the Holocaust is “not about race” but is instead about “man’s inhumanity to man.” She was immediately confronted by Joy Behar and Ana Navarro. But if you watch the full clip, you’d see that there was more to that conversation than the sound bites of the exchange.
The women were discussing a Florida bill that would prevent schools from using educational materials that may make students feel uncomfortable, particularly regarding race and gender. A Tennessee school district was in the midst of banning Maus, the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. Their discussion on The View ended in agreement on the innate goodness that lives within our children and the importance of learning the history behind man’s inhumanity to man.
While many are bashing and bullying Whoopi for her misstep, I instead offer a larger observation of the foundational issue at hand, that is the sweeping systemic change so desperately needed in our American education system. I’d be curious to know the extent of Jewish history Whoopi has formally learned. Jew hatred is referred to as antisemitism, and almost never as racism. Apparently, Whoopi never learned that Hitler’s main goal of the Holocaust was to create a “superior race.” She never learned that Hitler studied Jim Crow, the institutionalized racism that followed the collapse of Reconstruction after the Civil War — in developing his roadmap to carry out the Holocaust. Lastly, it seems that Whoopi Goldberg does not grasp that not all Jews are white.
Why, in the year 2022, is it not mandatory for Jewish American history, African American history, and various minority experiences to be incorporated into our educational curriculums? Not as electives. Not clubs. Not just in schools with a critical mass of Jewish or Black students. I expect lengthy and diverse American historical material to be implemented into American schools. I wonder, what would the American historian Carter Woodson say? This month of February, I recall that Black History Month itself was born out of the glaring necessity that all Americans must be included not only in books, but in the stories we tell of our history and values.
When African Americans and Jews advocated together during the Civil Rights Movement, that discussion alone took over a decade. After centuries in America, both groups are still discriminated against today. Race isn’t a two-minute televised segment, let alone a ten-second sound bite from the segment. Race is a lifelong discussion that we must continue to have so that lessons learned become equities that future generations don’t need to negotiate.
Ashira Solomon is the Community Associate at the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee Detroit, working to build and enhance initiatives in unity, diversity, equity and inclusion.