The universe is clearly trying to tell me something. I thought Victor Davis Hanson was it. But then along came the Wall Street Journal and Ronald Reagan on Nelson Mandela. I thought that was it. But then along came Greg Mankiw. And then came Chuck Lane. And now Megyn Kelly:
Earlier this week, I argued that our image of Santa Claus should no longer be a white man, but, instead, a penguin. I hoped the piece would come across as a little tongue-in-cheek, while at the same time expressing my real concern that America continues to promote the harmful idea of whiteness-as-default. Over the past couple of days, I’ve received a lot of responses. Some of them were positive—mostly because, as I said in the piece, people love penguins.
But many responses have (unsurprisingly) been negative. I’ve been labeled a “racist” more times than I can count, and more than one person has wondered whether or not I think snow should no longer be white. Some of it’s pretty amusing, actually. But the “controversy” reached its apex last night when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, along with three (white) guests discussed the topic on her show, The Kelly File. Just before diving in, Kelly made sure to emphatically declare, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”...
Santa isn’t real.
Sure... Santa is loosely based on Saint Nicholas [of Cusa].... But... modern-day Santa hardly resembles his supposed inspiration, who was depicted as tall and thin and, you know, Greek. He did not have a workshop in the North Pole nor eight faithful reindeer.... He’s utterly divorced from his religious and historical roots.And yet Kelly and her guests not only say repeatedly that Santa is real and definitely white, they also equate him with Jesus, who, historians generally agree, was a Jewish man who grew up in Galilee....
The argument that Santa must be white spills over into conversations about other, equally fictional characters. Can James Bond or Spider-Man be played by people of color? Why not? And yet some people will tell you—believe me—that they have to be white... how deeply rooted the idea of “whiteness” as the default really is. And that presumption carries over into our everyday lives as well, sometimes with sad results.
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.