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    Canceled Culture

    By Derek Barnes–

    Among many accomplishments, Whoopi Goldberg has been a veteran co-host of The View since 2007 and has had her share of provocative on-air moments. However, she’s consistently been seen as a model for engagement in modern-day philanthropy: love of humanity.

    In late January, she expressed comments on the show discussing the Holocaust and Hitler’s massacre of over six million Jewish people. She indicated it was “not about race,” but more about the atrocities imposed between “two groups of white people” and crimes against humanity. The backlash was swift and her attempts at apologizing were a fumble.

    I found several things fascinating in the Goldberg incident and her inevitable two-week suspension. There shouldn’t be any dispute about what happened to over six million people during the Jewish holocaust. Genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing have been engaged for centuries—perhaps most egregiously executed by Hitler during WW2. But something else surfaced in examining Goldberg’s comments and the response to them.

    First, we must acknowledge the unequal standards and penalties applied when one person makes a mistake or misspeaks compared to someone else. Ideally, we should all be enlightened and open to having substantive conversations about identity and historic racial impacts to learn more. But sadly, many people are not. 

    Goldberg acknowledged her insensitivity and apologized, which isn’t something we see from others who’ve made more serious blunders, said worse things, or acted out in the most egregious ways, and very little happens. Let the righteous outrage be applied equally. ABC’s response and punishment, as well as the public castigation, seemed unwarranted and unfair.

    Sometimes we forget that there is a propaganda-driven weaponization of race. Race is an engineered social construct that creates subcategories of people to exploit, fear, or hate—even beyond generally accepted racial categories. Judaism is a religion that people of different racial identities may adopt. The U.S. census, along with many other countries’ population registries, does not recognize being Jewish as a separate and distinct race. However, Hitler did and understood the power of his racial propaganda. He studied how America used it to effectively target groups, create durable divides, and justify human oppression and cruelty.

    In an inartful way, Goldberg tried to express her opinion (on an opinion show). I believe she was also trying to make a general point about human-on-human or perhaps raise awareness about the occurrences of white-on-white crime and atrocities. For decades, we’ve heard the term “black-on-black crime” expressed as some raging pandemic that other races or ethnic groups do not experience.

    Technically, Goldberg’s assessment of the crimes against Jewish people in WW2 not being about race is accurate. Distinguishing religious affiliation hasn’t been supported by current or past racial categorization in the U.S. or many other countries. As a propaganda tool, Hitler successfully manufactured a new construct around racial identity to justify the need to protect an Aryan “pure” race of white people by killing those deemed unworthy and inferior of the same race. Today we refer to this as genocide, even though ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity were also practiced, as Goldberg tried to explain.

    Finally, when compared across various racial groups and ethnicities, there is a fascinating difference in the esteem and importance of celebrities and who they represent. It’s no secret that Goldberg has had long-standing ties to the Jewish community, and context matters here. Antisemitism isn’t a problem that she created nor one that she is complicit in perpetuating.

    But, why are we expecting a Black actress to know and explain the social attitudes, brutality engineered and propagated, and systematically upheld by leaders like Hitler over decades? Why does media tend to default to our celebrities? Is it a relic from the civil rights movement when limited platforms for protest or dissent were mostly afforded to Black athletes, entertainers, and a few high-profile writers?

    There have always been other very qualified Black historians, sociologists, and scholars who are far more qualified to discuss these complex topics. Mainstream media should actively seek out relevant perspectives from those experts instead of defaulting to celebrities.

    Derek Barnes is the CEO of the East Bay Rental Housing Association ( ). He currently serves on the boards of Horizons Foundation and Homebridge CA. Follow him on Twitter @DerekBarnesSF or on Instagram at DerekBarnes.SF

    Published on March 10, 2022