Myth of ‘white Christian superiority’ is the issue, not Whoopi Goldberg


Chris Ryan

Ryia Ross-Peterson. Photo: Chris Ryan


Whoopi Goldberg, a prominent Black actress, comedian and talk show personality, recently made some inaccurate comments about Jews and the Holocaust on “The View,” which she co-hosts. After some Jewish leaders, including the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt weighed in, she quickly apologized. But she was still attacked on social media, and ABC suspended her from her show for two weeks.

The thing is, Whoopi Goldberg is not the problem.In fact, this latest controversy involving Jews and Blacks, two oppressed groups, is a distraction from the gigantic issue that is tearing our country apart and sets the stage for fights like these.

The larger, more concerning issue is the myth of white Christian superiority in the United States.Whiteness and Christianity constitute the “wallpaper” of our lives in America.The wallpaper is there, we just don’t notice it.

If you are a white Christian, everything seems normal to you because everything has been set up for you, fits with your vision of the world and confirms your values. It is hard to notice that anything is wrong.

But if you are Black or a person of color, or if you are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or some other religious minority, you may often feel that you are living in someone else’s house. You may feel “other” in your own country.

The wallpaper is dangerous. It allows the institutional racism baked into our laws and customs to go unchallenged. It is dangerous because Christianity, just one faith of the many held by Americans, gets baked into our laws, holidays and societal customs.

There are no human enemies. Our enemy is racism, antisemitism, sexism, anti-LBGTQ oppression and Islamophobia, and it will take all of us together to root out oppression and change this country from one that normalizes white Christian superiority to one that truly celebrates our diversity with amazing religions and cultures.

We all lose when our unique contribution to society is not valued.

What can we do? 

Challenge the myth of white Christian superiority whenever and wherever you see it. Stand up for each other. Make friends with people who are of a different skin color and religion than you. Follow these people on social media and don’t comment or argue with what they say, just listen and believe their experience. Work to change our laws to fight embedded racism.

And don’t vilify other oppressed groups that make an honest mistake in your direction, or people such as Whoopi Goldberg, who apologized and tried\to learn from the situation but was still vilified.

We who are white have breathed in racism from our culture and we will make mistakes even while we desperately\try not to pass on the racism we inherited.

Those who were raised Christian may have absorbed antisemitic ideas from their well-meaning parents, church and community. This is not a personal failing, it is just something absorbed from our culture.

We can overcome the racism or the antisemitism that was passed to us unknowingly when we were young. We will need education about each other and to know each other personally to understand how the world looks different when you are of a different skin color or of a different religion than the dominant culture.

As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We can and we must do better. That is the world I want, with all of you by my side.

Ryia Ross-Peterson is a pediatrician at Mercy Ladue Pediatrics and is affiliated with Mercy Hospital St Louis. She is also chair of the Board of Cultural Leadership.