Statement on Whoopi Goldberg and Jimmy Carr

"Just recently, we have seen two examples of celebrities – the American actress Whoopi Goldberg, and the British comedian Jimmy Carr – making inappropriate comments about the Holocaust. Both demonstrated that they don’t “get it” when it comes to racism.

Whoopi Goldberg - in response to the banning of the cartoon character Maus in Tennessee schools - commented that the Holocaust was not about race because it was white people killing other white people. She has since apologised. Jimmy Carr made a crack about Roma people killed during the Holocaust. Shockingly, the audience responded with laughter and applause. Equally shockingly, he has not apologised.

Some may argue that Carr was simply exercising his freedom of speech. But that freedom is not an absolute right, hence the legislation to protect individuals and communities from abusive speech. Jewish people know only too well how unfettered freedom of speech can lead to their being demonised. So do the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

What entertainers need to take on board is that racism is never a laughing matter. It is a complex issue, and one we must constantly engage with, whether in the classroom, in our communal institutions, or at the dinner table. It takes many forms and can be directed at any group of people, impacting differently on each. These two regrettable episodes remind us how important it is to address racism in all its manifestations, not just given the current climate but at all times, both within our own community and across all communities."