Dear Whoopi

Dear Whoopi,

I’m reaching out to you today wearing several hats.

1. I am a big fan of your work. Whether it’s Ghost or The Color Purple or Sister Act, you are incredibly entertaining and talented. The full range of your repertoire is noteworthy. You’ve made me laugh and cry – sometimes in the same movie! And as far as I know, you are the only Black woman to have an EGOT (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, Tony).

Speaking of laughter, your stand-up act has always been on the money. Sharp, profane, daring, but not aggressive. You have a spark and a style that are as unique as your look.

To be candid, I have never seen The View. I am not a fan of Crossfire-style tv that relies on sniping and backbiting. But over the years, I’ve read about the various fights and feuds. You seem to be on the progressive side of the fence, which I appreciate, since I, too, dwell there.

2. I am in awe of your commitment to social justice. Of course, your work with Comic Relief comes to mind first. But you’ve done so much more. You are a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations. You support various causes on behalf of children, the homeless, human rights, education, substance abuse, the battle against AIDS, and many more. No one can doubt your sincere desire to make the world a safer place.

3. I am the son of a Holocaust survivor, a proud Jew, and a rabbi. When I read your recent comments on the Holocaust, I thought immediately, “Oh oh.” According to The New York Times, you said that the Holocaust was about “man’s inhumanity to man” and “not about race.” When one of [your] co-hosts challenged that assertion, saying the Holocaust was driven by white supremacy, you said, “But these are two white groups of people. This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.” Oy.

You have been through the gauntlet for saying these words, which you now deeply regret. Not only did you apologize, but you also specifically acknowledged what you said was wrong then sought to share the correct information. You tweeted, “I said the Holocaust ‘is not about race, but about man’s inhumanity to man.’ I should have said it is about both. As Jonathan Greenblatt from the Anti-Defamation League shared, ‘The Holocaust was about the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the Jewish people — who they deemed to be an inferior race.’ I stand corrected.”

In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer wrote: The Nazi Holocaust in Europe and slavery and Jim Crow in the United States are outgrowths of the same ideology—the belief that human beings can be delineated into categories that share immutable biological traits distinguishing them from one another and determining their potential and behavior. In Europe, with its history of anti-Jewish persecution and violent religious divisions, the conception of Jews as a biological “race” with particular characteristics was used by the Nazis to justify the Holocaust. In the United States, the invention of race was used to justify the institution of chattel slavery because Black people were biologically suited to permanent servitude and unfit for the rights the nation’s Founders had proclaimed as universal. Therefore, the American color line was much more forgiving to European Jews than the divisions of the old country. But they are branches of the same tree, the biological fiction of race.

What comes out of your misspoken statement ends up being a very significant way – a new way – of understanding the role of antisemitism during the Holocaust and understanding it now.

5. I wear the hat of one who accepts your apology. I truly do. Yes, there was a controversy after your statement. People, including me, were upset and angered. Had you doubled down on your statement, I would’ve called for your termination. But you’ve certainly been contrite and forthcoming. This two-week suspension from your job at The View feels very foolish. It reflects a rush to judgment rather than careful listening.

The head of the ADL, Jonathan Rosenblatt, told Don Lemon at CNN, “In the Jewish faith, we have a concept called ‘teshuva,’ and ‘teshuva’ means redemption. It means all of us have the power to admit when we do wrong and to commit to doing better. I heard Whoopi say that she’s committed to doing better. I accept that apology with the sincerity with which she delivered it. I’m committed, ADL is committed, to work with her and to work with others who really want to use this as a teachable moment”.

I’m with him, Whoopi. I hope that the network executive who did this might soften his hardened heart. The right message would be that people say things, never intending malice. And when they realize that their words were wrong and ill-considered, people ask forgiveness and clarify the truth. You did that. If it’s good enough for the ADL, it should be good enough for ABC.

I won’t be watching The View anytime soon, but I hope you’re back on the job next week.

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