Not since the last brawl inside the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary on Orange Is the New Black has Laverne Cox seen a fight this intense. The actress returned to The View Thursday as a guest cohost only to find herself smack in the middle of a Whoopi Goldberg versus Rosie O'Donnell smackdown on the subject of racism.
Cox weighed in early about President Obama's role in healing racial rifts, saying, "He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't." She referenced the "beer summit" Obama held at the White House to address racism with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates — who Cox inadvertently first referred to as "Bill Gates" — and Cambridge, Mass., police officer James Crowley, who arrested Gates outside his home in 2009 and sparked a national furor over racial profiling. "He tried to show people this was a ridiculous thing and people attacked him."
Other racism-related topics included the president and first lady's firsthand experiences, as reported by People magazine, including that they each have been mistaken for hired help because of the color of their skin.
But when O'Donnell declared that America is "without a doubt" a racist country and that "Democrats are racist, too. It's our cultural history," Goldberg started banging her hand on the table. Between them sat Nicolle Wallace, Cox, and Rosie Perez.
"Listen! You are a white lady telling me what is racist to you," Goldberg told O'Donnell, who yelled back, "I'm just a gay American who has been called [expletive deleted by ABC]." Cox said something that was bleeped out along with O'Donnell's remark. O'Donnell continued, "I know what homophobia and hatred looks like!"
Clearly agitated, Goldberg started to get out of her seat, shouting back, "That's not the same!" And O'Donnell went on: "I have a black child I raise, Whoopi! I have a kid in my house!" Goldberg repeated, "That's not the same thing."
As Cox, Wallace, and Perez swiveled their heads as if watching a riveting tennis match, O'Donnell served up this: "You don't have to be black to know what racism is!"
Goldberg was quick to pounce: "Yes! You do!" To which O'Donnell retored, "No, you don't!"
And back and forth it went until Cox, who like Goldberg is African-American, interrupted. "I think there are so many white folks out there who been protesting who see and understand what racism is," Cox said.
As O'Donnell sipped from her coffee mug, Goldberg jumped back in, declaring loudly: "Yes! Yes! Which is why I say it's not racism. ... America is not just a racist country, because there are white people who get it. There are white people who look up and say" — and she paused to acknowledge that Cox had said something with which all the hosts were in agreement, with Perez saying, "Yes, that is true," O'Donnell pointing her finger at Cox approvingly, and Goldberg saying, "This I know" — and reiterated her point that she cannot accept a blanket statement that America is a racist country.
Cox wrapped it up by saying, "So we agree to disagree."
"As we will always do," Goldberg said, "because this is called, what? The View!" Cox and her cohosts agreed in unison.
Cox posted a picture of the Laquan Smith dress and jewelry she wore on The View on Instagram, where fans will also see her wearing a cape dress by designer Marc Bouwer for her appearance as a guest judge on Project Runway All Stars in the seventh episode of season 4, which aired Thursday on Lifetime.
Watch the segment from The View (in two parts) below.