Whoopi Goldberg suspension shows complexity of Jewish identity, racism, academic says – Catholic Philly
ABC’s suspension of “The View” host Whoopi Goldberg highlights the complex nature of Jewish identity and the “different experiences of racism that people have,” a local scholar said.
The network imposed the sanction on February 1 after Goldberg said during the previous day’s episode that the Holocaust (Shoah) was “not about race”. The remarks, along with several public apologies made by Goldberg, drew widespread media attention and comment.
“This is a classic example of people using the same charged word in different ways, and so they’re talking to each other,” said Philip Cunningham, co-director of the Institute of Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) at the University. St. Joseph (SJU) and professor of theology and religious studies at this school.
Founded in 1967, the IJCR is the oldest such academic center in the United States established in response to the call of the Second Vatican Council for increased interreligious dialogue.
As part of the IJCR mission, Cunningham and co-director Adam Gregerman, associate professor of theology and religious studies at SJU, teach as a team and partner to seek Jewish-Christian reconciliation and reform, working nationally and globally.
The controversy over Goldberg’s statements reveals “fine distinctions between race and ethnicity, and the issue of racism – the habit of categorizing human beings into groups that a person considers inferior,” Cunningham said.
For the sake of clarity, “it is better to speak of ‘racism’ rather than ‘race’, which is a very difficult concept to define,” he said. “Scientifically, and in terms of Catholic teaching, there really is only one ‘race’, which is the human race.”
Cunningham noted that the U.S. bishops made this point in their 2018 pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.”
In the document, the bishops observed that “racism occurs because a person ignores the basic truth that because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally created in the image of God. When this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other and, too often, hatred.
The various forms that racism can take include “the enslavement of millions of Africans” and “the Nazi genocide against the Jews”, as well as 19th century depictions of Irish and Italian Catholics, Jews and Asians as ” unwanted drunks or subhuman immigrants to the US,” Cunningham said, adding that “all human beings seem capable of racist thoughts and actions.”
Given its many facets, Jewish identity tends to transcend everyday terms, often making it difficult for “non-Jews (to) understand what it means to be Jewish,” Cunningham said.
In a 1975 statement, the U.S. bishops asserted that “in dialogue with Christians, Jews have explained that they do not see themselves as a church, a sect or a denomination…but rather as a people who are not not just racial, ethnic or religious”. , but in a sense a composite of it all.
The IJCR will explore a particular case of workplace racism in a Feb. 7 webinar featuring Boston College history professor Jesuit Father Charles Gallagher, author of “The Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten History of the Frontline Christian”. The American Catholic movement, active in the 1930s and 1940s, sought to align itself with the Nazis and eliminate Jewish and Communist influence in the United States.
For information and registration, visit the IJCR website.