Aisha Harris wrote about her experience growing up with two Santas – a white Santa that is omnipresent in mainstream society, and a black Santa at home. When a confused Harris asked her dad which Santa was real, she was told “Santa was every color. Whatever house he visited, jolly old St. Nicholas magically turned into the likeness of the family that lived there,” an explanation that is familiar to a lot of nonwhite kids or kids of liberal parents who want to dismantle the notion that whiteness should be the default.
Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, when discussing Harris’ piece insisted that Santa Clause is a white man – he is what he is…She spoke with a panel, and one member who initially seemed dismissive of Harris, came off as rather sympathetic to Harris’ point, even highlight the author’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we turn Santa from a jolly white man to a cute penguin (not a bad idea, really).
But Kelly has an issue with turning Santa Claus into a black man. Why? Because it’s tradition, and as we all know, tradition is important, and we must hold on to tradition, no matter how hurtful it can be. After all, Kelly herself said, “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it has to change.”
Yeah, when it comes to Santa it kinda does – you know why, Ms. Kelly? Because Santa doesn’t exist. It’s a myth, open to all sorts of interpretations and changes.
Kelly goes on to insist that having black Santas is merely revisionist history – she then blunders when she goes on to prove her point by mentioning that Jesus Christ was a white man. Except he wasn’t.
So what do we do with Megyn Kelly’s assertion that a much-beloved icon of generosity and kindness must be a white man because it’s just so?
Well, even though I find Kelly’s opinion outdated and ridiculous, I get where she’s coming from. She’s merely showing the latest gasp of fear and anxiety that comes out when white privilege gets challenged. And in these more multicultural times, the challenges are coming up more and more, and they are harder and harder to dismiss. Kelly and others (including myself) benefit from white privilege, so it’s hard for many to see that privilege being chipped away (no matter how glacially).
Kelly shot back to all the jokes made at her expense by insisting that she was joking. She was being a comedienne – she made the comment in jest. Except she didn’t. You can’t just back pedal and say “just kidding” when you get caught with your foot in your mouth. Just own it – say, “Crap – I misspoke. I’m sorry.” Kelly later on in her defense, tried to align herself with Harris by insisting that she was agreeing with Harris in that Santa was white – except, Kelly was saying Santa’s white, and it’s too bad if that alienated a sizable minority of kids in America, because as Kelly said, if something makes you uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean it has to change. Harris was saying that Santa – a mythical figure – was white only because mainstream, commercialism made him white. There’s a huge difference. And to try to hide with a “just kidding” is sad.
So, the question at the base of this debate is – should Santa’s color be changed? And the answer – it already has. As many black commentators mentioned in the wake of Kelly’s comments, lots of black households had black Santas. So, would it be such a burden to show a black Santa? Who would suffer if Santa was black? Or Asian? Or Hispanic? If anything, kids would benefit seeing a multicultural representation of jolly Saint Nick.
Unfortunately for Kelly, she regressed to the most common defense when race is addressed – she lamented the fictional “race baiter” – a figure almost as mythical as Santa. I try not to roll my eyes whenever someone brings up race baiting, insisting it’s racist to point out racism. And I’m not saying Kelly is racist – well, not more racist than most white people are (and let’s be honest, as Avenue Q said, everybody’s a little racist). It’s not my place to guess if she is racist – and her intent, even if it was a stab at stand up, doesn’t matter.
And so, yes Virginia, there very well could be a Santa – and he may very well be black. Or a penguin. And that’s okay.