The fact that there is a serious debate going on in the blogosphere and news media whether 1) Santa Claus is white; 2) whether it is racist to maintain he is white and 3) whether he should be some other race or species is more evidence that the United States of America is having a nervous breakdown. It also demonstrates that race-baiters and the insanely politically correct have no sense of proportion, moderation or shame, and that too many of those who are confronted by these annoying people don’t have the sense to know when to just nod, pat them on the heads and say, “Sure, sure…if it makes you happy.” Here are some loosely connected observations on a controversy too dumb to justify organization:
- This whole ridiculous controversy was launched by the beyond idiotic Slate piece by Aisha Harris that I wrote about here. That’s right: she’s the genius who thinks that penguins are mammals. Anyone that ignorant and intellectually lazy should not have articles published anywhere, about anything. Such maleducated pundits should not be trusted, because their basic knowledge base is suspect, indeed demonstrably corrupted. Garbage in, garbage out. Allow someone who thinks birds are mammals to inject topics into the national debate, and arguments about whether Santa Claus is white is about what you can expect to get. “You know—morons.”
- That does not excuse anyone, including normally rational Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly, who insisted that Santa was white in over-wrought and semi-inarticulate fashion ( “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”), from elevating the “real” race of Santa Claus to the importance of, say, whether Bert and Ernie are gay. Who cares, Megyn? What does race have to do with Santa Claus? Indeed, what should race have to do with Jesus either? Here’s a Christmas song on point, by the late, lamented Mr. Andy Williams:
- Santa Clause is not a historical figure. Like James Bond, Robin Hood, Dracula and Moby Dick, he is a fictional character inspired by reality. The modern day Santa Claus is a long, long way from the Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas, who was technically Greek and lived in part of what is now Turkey. That eccentric gentleman was grafted to the Norse god Odin, the British “Father Christmas” and other traditions, until 19th Century cartoonist Thomas Nast, the same artist who gave us the GOP elephant and the Democratic donkey, drew him in the form we typically see him today. None of this is committed to statute or edict, and if our culture decides that Santa is, rather than a bearded, white, jolly fat guy in a red suit (part of this also comes from the 20th century poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and who wrote that is even in dispute), is really black, female, Tim Allen, a polar bear drinking a Coke or a mammalian penguin, so what? The character is a symbolic icon, that’s all, representing, depending on your point of view, giving, generosity, innocence, childhood, the persistence of benign magic in the world, or crass commercialism. He/she/it can be whatever we want it to be, or something unique and different to all.
- Insisting that Santa is white is technically correct, and similar to arguing that Dorothy Gale, Willie Loman or James West (of “The Wild, Wild West”) are white. But all of these characters have been portrayed by black actors with great success, and no tangible harm resulted, either to the characters or the audiences. In theater, this is called “non-traditional casting.”
- This does not mean, however, that stating the literal truth—Santa is a traditionally a white man—makes someone a racist. To do what is being done to Kelly is race-baiting at its rock-bottom worst. There are people who don’t like non-traditional casting in every case; I don’t, for example. One argument against black Santas is the same as the argument for black Santas—it makes a statement that it matters what color Santa Claus is. It doesn’t matter…but that doesn’t change the fact that the character was devised and evolves as a white guy. Again. so what? And if you believe “So what?,” why change him? Megyn Kelly is a traditionalist. That’s not racist. Presumably she’d also object to this Gene Autry Christmas song. Actually, I’m not sure I don’t object to it too—Gene wrote a lot of great Christmas songs, but honestly:
- Now we have this incident, in which a Cleveland High School teacher confronted a black student who dressed as Santa Claus for a Christmas-themed costume day. The teacher said, “Don’t you know Santa Clause is white? Why are you wearing that?” The teacher was disciplined by the school. Good. Presumably he was not disciplined for stating a fact, but for making such a statement in a way that marginalized a student and suggested that because he is black, he can’t portray a cultural icon. That’s cruel and gratuitous, and the teacher’s judgement in this case stunk. The problem with the episode is that it can be framed, as the conservative media is (predictably) framing it, as an example of enforced political correctness. It ought to be seen as a school properly admonishing a teacher for mistreating a student. Imagine a black girl coming the class on Halloween dressed as Cinderella, and being asked by her teacher, “Don’t you know Cinderella is white?” (Brandy played Cinderella in the last TV version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, now on Broadway. It doesn’t matter what race Cinderella is.)
Most important of all, children don’t care what color Santa is. As with most controversies involving Christmas, this is the adults behaving badly. Shame on all of them. Santa’s bringing coal for their stockings in his whirlybird.