The View host Whoopi Goldberg is the latest victim of cancel culture, depending upon how broadly one defines the term. After making the bizarre claim that the Holocaust was not an example of racism—and then reiterating this view during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert—Goldberg was dealt a two-week suspension by ABC.
"Effective immediately, I am suspending Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks for her wrong and hurtful comments," said Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, in a statement on Tuesday. "While Whoopi has apologized, I've asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments. The entire ABC News organization stands in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities."
I have yet to find anyone who agrees with the punishment. Goldberg's comments do not appear to come from a place of maliciousness toward Jewish people—in fact, she has described herself as a non-practicing Jew in the past. What purpose does the suspension serve, except to chide a political talk show host from talking about politics? Goldberg made her claim, and was called out and repeatedly corrected. She wasn't underplaying the horrors of the Holocaust or denying anti-Semitism, she was earnestly making a point that, as it turns out, is wrong.
Here's how she defended herself on Colbert:
Stephen Colbert: The Nazis would say it's a racial issue.
Whoopi: This is what's interesting to me because the Nazis lied. It wasn't. pic.twitter.com/LZujsAug41
— Dan O'Donnell (@DanODonnellShow) February 1, 2022
"This is what's interesting to me, because the Nazis lied," said Goldberg. "It wasn't [about race]. They had issues with ethnicity, not with race. Because most of the Nazis were white people and most of the people they were attacking were white people. So for me, I'm thinking, how can you say it's about race if they were fighting each other? It all really began because I said how will we explain to children what happened in Nazi Germany. I said, this wasn't racial, it was about white on white."
There's a kernel of an interesting point here, in that the Nazis very deliberately pioneered the idea of a single white race that was set apart from—and in their view, superior to—all other races. Prior to the 20th century, various peoples we would all consider white by today's standards did not identify as part of the same racial tribe: There was no broad, united consensus that the Italians and the Irish, for instance, were racially linked. People of different European countries, even different neighboring countries, were often considered part of the generic other, no matter how alike they looked. The Nazis had different ideas.
They certainly considered Jews to be part of an inferior, non-white racial group, however. Their anti-Jewish rhetoric was starkly racial. That's where Goldberg's comments really go off the rails.
She's right that in a world where racial categories have been expanded to include all white-looking people in the same bucket, modern children might have difficulty understanding why Jews—who are now frequently considered to be white, even though many of them are not—suffered racial genocide at the hands of people who more or less look similar to them. But that doesn't mean the Holocaust was somehow devoid of racial motivations. It was very much about race.
Even so, it's hard to see why The View needed to dish out a suspension. Goldberg's comments were no less informed than her usual remarks on COVID-19: She recently suggested, for instance, that prevention measures must continue because of the threat coronavirus poses to kids.