Megyn Kelly, a White American news host of Fox News, informed her television viewers on December 11th 2013:
Santa just is white … Jesus is a white man too.
Archie Bunker, a self-parody of racism who appeared on American television in the 1970s, said:
Jesus was white and so is Santa Claus.
Kelly was commenting on an article in Slate by Aisha Harris, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore”.
Harris, half-serious, half-tongue-in-cheek, said that Santa should be a penguin – Penguin Claus! Growing up, Santa was black at home, as in many black homes, but in the broader American culture he was white. A white Santa pushes the White Default, as does white James Bond and white Spiderman, but more powerfully since Santa is so important to small children.
Harris argues we can make Santa whatever we want. He no longer has anything to do with St Nicholas, who lived on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, not at the North Pole!
Santa Claus has changed over the years:
- 1773: first called Santa Claus, an Americanization of the New York Dutch nickname for St Nicholas.
- 1809: smokes a pipe, wears green (Washington Irving)
- 1823: a “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with flying reindeer (Clement Moore)
- 1863: a fat white man (Thomas Nast)
- 1930: wears a red and white suit (Coca-Cola ads)
Santa just is white … Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know?
Kelly’s guest Monica Crowley:
You can’t take facts and then try to change them to fit some sort of a political agenda or sensitivity agenda.
Santa’s whiteness, apparently, is a “fact” that cannot be changed. White people can accept the bit about flying reindeer, but his not being a white man is suddenly a violation of reality. Strange.
This is hardly an isolated case. You see it in debates about black hobbits. Harris points out that whiteness as default is so deeply rooted that when Rue in “The Hunger Games” (2012) was played by a black girl (Amandla Stenberg), many were shocked and upset. They had imagined Rue as a white girl, like maybe Dakota Fanning, blonde hair, blue eyes and all. Even though the book said Rue had “dark brown skin and eyes”!
Kelly later tried to play off the Santa-is-white thing as a joke, ha ha, and accused others of race baiting.
I’ll be fine if no one else jumps on board the penguin train and Santa remains a white man. But if you’re seriously emphatic that he is white and must remain white, there’s a good chance that your view of the rest of the world is just as limited and unimaginative. I mean, we are talking about a magical man who slides down your chimney every Christmas Eve. Just so we’re clear.