As far as “post-racial” and “New Black” famous Negroes go, Whoopi Goldberg is a pioneer. When she discusses race, it’s enough to make your average Black person living in America shout, “What in the hell is she talking about?”
This week on The View, Whoopi gave more informed viewers a head-scratching, eye-roll inducing comment about the role racism plays in our justice system. While discussing whether or not Darren Wilson will be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown, The View co-host Rosie O’Donnell declared: “I’m sick of it. Black boys are like the endangered species in America. They’re killed at an absurd rate and nobody seems to care enough.”
To which Whoopi replied: “A lot of people care. What has to happen is, we need to remind everybody: ‘These are your sons. Forget the color. Because it could be you tomorrow. Injustice doesn’t care what color you are.’”
To “forget the color” is to ignore the problem — even as it chases Black men and women down to execute them as they hold bags of Skittles and toy guns.
Of course, this is not surprising. In the past, Goldberg has defended the use of blackface. She once went above and beyond to convince The View viewers that Mel Gibson does not have a racist bone in his body despite his use of racial epithets and employment of racial stereotypes.
She’s also argued over what constitutes rape as opposed to “rape-rape” as she defends the likes of Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and more recently Bill Cosby. Goldberg has consistently used her platform to play the role of devil’s advocate. I continue to love her as an artist, but I increasingly can only bear to her hear when she’s speaking of a fake reality lifted from script pages as opposed to the one in her head.
Injustice affects us all, but Black people more than everyone else.
Just this week, USA Today unveiled a study that Black people are more likely to be arrested than any other group. Moreover, disparate arrest records in Ferguson, Mo. are reported “in cities as large and diverse as Chicago and San Francisco and in the suburbs that encircle St. Louis, New York and Detroit.” This is nothing more than additional evidence to what we’ve seen in conviction rates, prison sentencing and police brutality cases across the nation.
Goldberg may be right in that “a lot of people care,” though we do live in a country where polls show white people will support voter ID laws more after being shown photos of Black people. So sure, some people may care about Michael Brown’s shooting death, but a large portion of that group includes people who look like him. The lack of empathy towards Black life speaks to the very issue Rosie O’Donnell intended to highlight before Whoopi’s interruption.
Yes, in theory, anyone of us could die at any moment, but the reality is someone who looks like me is far more likely to be shot and killed by a law enforcement officer with a preconceived notion of who I am. Even if that notion proves itself to be false, no matter as my public reputation will be ravaged for the sake of that white police officer’s redemption.
Rosie O’Donnell is aware of this and her remarks are appreciated. It’s just a shame that of the three women of color on that panel – Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez, and guest host, actress Naya Rivera – it was Rosie who had to advocate for the humanity of Black men.