So yesterday, Fox News anchor Megyn-with-a-why Kelly told the throngs of children who watch her that Santa Claus and Jesus are both white men, in case anyone — like this Slate blogger, Aisha Harris — wanted to convince them otherwise. Harris suggested in what I can only assume is a tongue-in-cheek way that Santa Claus be represented going forward by a penguin, since the image of Santa Claus has changed so much over time. Her out-of-the-box idea is a response to the alienation she felt as a black child growing up with the image of Black Santa in her home, but a white Santa all around her in the wider culture. Harris was using animal imagery to make the point that Santa doesn’t have to be any one thing, nor has he ever been any one type of man. For a time, Santa was a heavy smoker, but alas, in an effort to increase his present-delivering stamina, he’s put the pipe away. Eventually, Santa will probably become quite slim, because, you know, there’s an obesity epidemic, and if Cookie Monster can recognize that cookies are a sometimes food, so can Old Saint Nick.
But let’s talk about the real Saint Nicholas for a second — the one Megyn Kelly seemed to be referencing when she was telling all of her kid fans that the “real” Santa was undeniably a white man. (Presumably Saint Nicholas also had a belly like a bowl full of jelly – this is if jelly was around in the mid-300’s.) Saint Nicholas lived in what is modern-day Turkey, and likely was more “swarthy” than pinkish-white as we see him depicted in American folklore. According to The Guardian, St. Nick was “short, olive-skinned and had a broken nose.” (The better for him to relate to Rudolph, I’m guessing.)
More importantly, though Saint Nicholas the bishop was a real man thousands of years ago, “Santa Claus” is not. Even this British vicar is willing to tell kids that Santa isn’t real. Therefore it doesn’t really matter what color his skin is, or if he’s depicted as a penguin. Santa Claus is a magical, fat fairy character who rides around in a sleigh in post-9/11 skies breaking into people’s houses to leave them gifts he “made” at Best Buy. Are you really that invested in keeping the white in White Christmas, Megyn Kelly? Please. Who cares?
When it comes to Jesus, though, it’s common knowledge that Jesus was absolutely NOT a white man, in any sense of the word. He was born in the Middle East, for His sake! Put succinctly by Jonathan Merritt today in The Atlantic, “The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.”
So there you have it, Megyn Kelly: wrong on both counts. Santa is a figment and Jesus was brown. I hope you realize that since you’ve hurt all of the black children who view your television program, you’ll probably get coal in your stocking this year. Remember, just because black coal makes you uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean you can call it white.
Photo credit: Flickr user Chris Buecheler