ADL changes definition of racism after Whoopi Goldberg incident

The ADL changes its definition of racism to include both race and ethnicity.

 The Anti-Defamation League's "Never is Now" summit in New York City. (photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
The Anti-Defamation League's "Never is Now" summit in New York City.

The Anti-Defamation League has changed its definition of racism following backlash over its previous definition and after remarks by Whoopi Goldberg about racism and the Holocaust.

“Racism occurs when individuals or institutions show more favorable evaluation or treatment of an individual or group based on race or ethnicity,” read the ADL’s new interim definition.

In late 2020, the league changed its definition of racism to be “the marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.”

It also added that systemic racism is a “combination of systems, institutions and factors that advantage white people and, for people of color, cause widespread harm and disadvantages in access and opportunity.”

On Tuesday, The View’s Goldberg said in a discussion about the Holocaust that it “isn’t about race,” but rather about “man’s inhumanity to man,” and described the Holocaust as a conflict between “two white groups of people.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who was invited onto the program by Goldberg after her remarks caused an uproar, said “there’s no question that the Holocaust was about race. That’s how the Nazis saw it as they perpetrated the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people across continents, across countries.”

He reminded her that the graphic novel Maus opens with a quote saying that “’the Jews undoubtedly are a race, but they are not human.’”

Critics pointed out that under the ADL’s 2020 definition of racism, Goldberg’s comments had some legitimacy, as per that definition racism could only be performed against people of color by white people, and she perceived Jews as “white.”

“We are going to open ourselves to comments on our new definition of racism from the public,” ADL wrote, according to Washington Examiner executive editor Seth Mandel. The organization changed its definition to the interim version, and opened itself up to feedback with a dedicated webpage “developed specifically to take ideas beyond the mindless trolling on social media.”

Prior to the late 2020 change, the ADL defined racism as “the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, [and] that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.”