Decades ago, when the performer Caryn Johnson decided her name wasn’t interesting enough and dubbed herself Whoopi Goldberg instead, it wasn’t because Goldberg signified “whiteness.”
Through the years, she’s offered many weird and contradictory explanations for her change in moniker, but it might have seemed at the time that a black person sporting the surname Goldberg would be especially eye-catching and noteworthy (especially in conjunction with that wild first name) because it would represent the proud ownership of her outsider status. She wasn’t trying to blend in. She was doubling down — on race.
Note, please, that Caryn Johnson didn’t become Whoopi Rockefeller. No. She knew that by becoming Whoopi Goldberg, she would be choosing to flaunt in every way possible the fact that she was a minority person in a majority-white country. The “Goldberg” was the cherry on top.
You see, in the early 1980s, when Johnson became Goldberg, it was still commonly understood that Jews were a people apart. We were apart due to facts of history, due to discrimination and hatred based on our very being and — for those who practiced the faith rigorously — due to the way we ate, dressed, celebrated the Sabbath and prayed. …
Back when Johnson became Goldberg, Jews weren’t considered “white,” exactly. And they weren’t not-white either. The point here is that such a classification system is meaningless when it comes to Jews, no matter the color of their skin. …
It’s obvious that a 2022 version of young Caryn Johnson would not choose the name Goldberg to gain that extra frisson of non-white pride.
In fact, Whoopi Goldberg should just drop the Goldberg now. There are dozens of survivors of the Holocaust who bear the name — and an untold number who died in the Shoah with it. Caryn Johnson stains them both.
Caryn? Like Karen? Really? Well well.