Celebrities, bless their hearts, can be like children who babblingly amplify our silliest cultural foibles and force us to confront ourselves in the mirror. As fools to our collective king, they have recently delivered in spades.
So it was with ’90s sensation Whoopi Goldberg, when she insisted it was impossible for the Holocaust to have been the product of racism because both the Nazis and the Jewish people they targeted were white. “The Holocaust wasn’t about race,” according to Goldberg, because the Nazis and the Jews were “two white groups of people”.
It was a wonderful moment in television because, in one brief segment, Goldberg brought to its logical conclusion the inching shift in the definition of racism that has been taking hold in the US and seeping from thence into other countries. She simultaneously exposed the questionable end point that was approaching and, by making the destination visible, hobbled the definition’s ability to infest our cultural understanding.
Goldberg, you see, wasn’t alone out on a limb shooting the shit. The idea that racism is only visited by white people upon black people was reflected on the website of the Anti-Defamation League, a US organisation founded to combat racism against Jewish people and, as it states in its lore, “for all people”. But sometime in the last couple of years it had quietly changed its definition of racism from “the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another” to “the marginalisation and/or oppression of people of colour based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people”.