Whoopi Goldberg said something incredibly and shockingly ignorant about the Holocaust. She revealed, in fact, how a very peculiar and narrow understanding of race in America prevents a more thorough and global discussion of difference, discrimination, ethnicity, racism and genocide in the world. It is a wide-spread problem, and it was unfortunate to see it unfold on live television. The other day she apologized, corrected what she had said, showed genuine contrition, even invited an expert on the panel.
That should have been it. Instead, she was suspended for two weeks. Others with a lesser public profile have been fired from their jobs forever, not even given a chance to apologize, contextualize or correct their statements. What is wrong with us? Why can’t we give people a chance to learn anymore?
The point of an apology is to recognize your mistake, be contrite, be humble, demonstrate learning, and then to ask for forgiveness. It should then be given. Otherwise, what’s the point? We all make mistakes, we all are idiots occasionally, and we all would like others to forgive us.
Furthermore, in more complicated cases, mere allegations without due process have contributed to a climate in which people distrust our established truth-finding processes and the rule of law. Without such trust, we cannot have a functioning society.
We need to get out of this desire to purge people and ideas from society. Whatever you call it, censorship, cancel culture, intimidation, outrage, shaming: it has to stop. We are stronger than this, and we should use these moments to learn and grow – together. We clearly need to. That is the only way towards a better future.