The viral news today: Fox News host Megyn Kelly has an important PSA for all the minority kids out there watching The Kelly File: Santa and Jesus were both white, so stop complaining about your white Christmas.
On Wednesday, Kelly brought out a well-written Slate piece by culture blogger Aisha Harris, who advocated for the old, fat, white Santa to be replaced by a fat, bearded penguin. Harris lamented that during her childhood, she found it "bewildering" that the Santa featured in her home every Christmas was black and the one everywhere else was white. Her father said that St. Nick was every color and that he changed into the likeness of every family he visited. But she always felt, deep down, "slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn't the 'real thing.'"
"That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white — and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a "joke" or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes — helps perpetuate the whole "white-as-default" notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture)."
Kelly's response? Deal with it.
Here's what she said. "By the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white, but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa." Kelly expressed sympathy that Harris felt genuine pain over white Santa, but added that "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."
And then she took it to a whole other level:
"Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure. That's a verifiable fact — as is Santa. I just want the kids watching to know that. My point is, how do you just revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story and change Santa from white to black?"
So you have it. According to Megyn Kelly, it's a "verifiable fact" that Santa is white and so was the Jesus of Nazareth.
Of course, over here in the real world, Santa is the product of centuries of cultural fusion, perhaps originating from the Dutch mythological figure Sinterklaas, who took on elements of the pagan god Odin and his associated Yule and ghostly Wild Hunt before merging with Britain's joyous, alcoholic Father Christmas, who said such things as "O Sir I bring good cheere" and apparently preached at funerals or something. Notably, Sinterklaas's elves are black (or at least children wearing blackface, which frankly is a topic best left for another post).
In China, a very Asian Santa plays the saxophone. No one knows why, not even Megyn Kelly. 1940s Republican Shanghai also had Chinese Santa:
Look, it's verifiable evidence that Santa is at least occasionally portrayed some kind of sentient snow person, or a really, really well-made Asian snowman. That's from decades before the modern Santa that Kelly is evoking as evidence of some kind of permanent, unchanging Kris Kringle that stands racially and culturally unchanged throughout all of time and space.
And despite Kelly's efforts to claim Santa as the unique property of the Caucasian peoples, white people do not own the Christmas tradition, nor do they dictate the Clauses. Harris's own piece is testimony to the fact that cultural traditions change and are reflected by the people who celebrate them. By saying Santa's immutably white, Kelly is implicitly calling what Harris's family was doing - having a black Santa figurine - wrong.
Here's a great list from Flavorwire of some other Christmas gift-givers from around the world, all of whom are different reflections of a similar trope. Does Kelly think these different traditions are also incorrect? Probably not, but she probably considers her particular Santa the definitive one.
Meanwhile, Jesus was "verifiably" not white. Thanks to forensic science and common sense (he was born in what is now modern-day Palestine), we've known for at least a decade that Jesus probably looked like this:
The white people in the historical Jesus's neck of the woods during the time included the Romans, who were most noteworthy for crucifying him.
The takeaway: Kelly's racial absolutism here is pretty silly, and factually incorrect. It's also reflective of a dismissive attitude towards the concerns of minority groups that many of the dominant traditions in our country aren't inclusive of them. Her message is essentially "deal with it," the claim of someone who's never had to face being systematically marginalized or ignored.