Whoopi Goldberg’s high-profile rewrite of the Holocaust and the strident backlash against it could be a watershed moment in race relations, particularly between blacks and Jews.
When Goldberg regains her public platform, she could bring some much-needed nuance to the national dialogue on race by imparting the lessons of why she was so wrong in simplifying the struggle between two groups of white people and the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews. .
The first lesson: competing for victimhood only complicates the conversation and detracts from fighting bigotry. To be sure, people of color are an obvious and easy target for racism. But the logic doesn’t work the other way around.
When it comes to Jews, the haters tend to hit the mark, even those of us with pale skin.
Lori Gilbert-Kaye’s fair skin provided no cover when a gunman opened fire on the last day of Passover 2019, killing the 60-year-old Sabbath worshiper at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California. Rabbi Josef Neumann’s fair skin also didn’t save him that same year when an attacker who traveled to the upstate Orthodox Jewish village of Monsey chased Jews into a house while celebrating Hanukkah. The attacker repeatedly stabbed the 72-year-old rabbi, who was left in a coma before succumbing to his injuries.
Although Jews make up less than 2% of the US population, reported hate crimes against Jews accounted for nearly 60% of all religion-based hate crimes in 2020, according to FBI statistics. Where was the shield of white privilege? Where was he during the Holocaust?
The talk show host’s education on bigotry wouldn’t be complete without understanding that demographics take the breath away from her original claim, that Jews can be classified as a homogeneous white group; Jews come in many colors.
Jews, like other Americans, are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, according to a Pew Research Center study published last year. While the majority of Jewish American adults identify as non-Hispanic white, 8% identify with other racial or ethnic groups. That proportion is higher, 15%, among Jews aged 18 to 29.
In addition, 17% of Jewish and 29% of Jewish adults under the age of 30 said they live in households in which at least one child or adult is Black, Hispanic, Asian, or other non-white race or ethnicity, or multiracial. .
Israel is also not the white colonialist entity that its enemies claim it to be. The majority of Israeli Jews are Mizrahi, that is, of Middle Eastern and North African descent, while only about a third of Israeli Jews are of Ashkenazi or European origin.
It would be hard to tell my Israeli cousin Avi as Jewish if he were sitting among a group of Cuban immigrant diners in Miami’s Little Havana.
The strong rejection of Goldberg’s misguided claims is welcome. So far, recent history shows that snubs against Jews have received either a dull response or no response at all.
The often lackluster response to anti-Semitism may be due in part to the belief that Jews enjoy white privilege. Understanding that history and demographics prove otherwise is a lesson at least as important as the calls to forgive Whoopi Goldberg.
Correcting the dangerous narrative he presented will help ensure that the civil rights of Jews are also protected and will bring us all closer to dialogue and reconciliation.
This guest essay reflects the views of Allan Richter, a journalist living in Smithtown.