Slate culture blogger Aisha Harris posted a holiday-themed essay December 10, discussing her childhood struggle with race during Christmas. The problem: While she and her African-American family celebrated a black Santa, society bombarded a young Harris with images of a very white Santa. Confused by the conflict, Harris asked her father exactly what color Santa was. He replied that Santa magically turned the color of the family he was delivering presents to.
Initially, the article seems like a serious, thought-provoking piece discussing race during the holidays. However, said discussion takes a tongue-in-cheek turn when Harris suggests a more inclusive holiday figure, Penguin Claus. This Santa is black and white, and Harris argues a gift-toting bird is very feasible as children today often watch cartoons that depict such human characteristics in animals.
One could argue Penguin Claus is still exclusive when considering different races, but that was not the part that stirred the pot. Instead, the fact that Harris said Santa should not a white man ruffled the feathers of Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly.
Soon after the Slate article was posted, Kelly started a “debate” on the race of Santa with three other full-grown white-as-holiday-snow guests on her show. Kelly would have brought in specialists, but unfortunately Santa-penguin experts are hard to come by.
Ultimately, Kelly insisted the article was ridiculous, saying, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.” She also described Jesus as white, and both of the descriptions caused quite the controversy.
CNN’s Don Lemon–an African-American anchor–ridiculed Kelly’s comments, laughing with guests on his own show. He insisted the whole idea was ludicrous, seeing as Jesus was a Middle Eastern man with what was most likely an olive complexion. Ultimately, Lemon concluded the argument, saying, “What your Santa and your Jesus looks like is entirely up to you.”
This is a great, inclusive statement; it’s even more inclusive than Penguin Claus.
In response, Megyn Kelly called in sick the next night. The following night, however, Kelly gave her take on it–but most definitely not her apology.
Kelly said, “In kicking off the light-hearted segment, I offered a tongue-in-cheek message
for any kids watching, saying that Santa–who I joked is a real person whose race is identifiable– is white, just as Harris claimed in her piece. But that we were debating whether that should somehow change.”
She emphasized the words of the Slate essay: “fat old white man” and “melanin-deficient” to project the criticism she received onto Harris. She continued, saying, “Humor is part of what we like to bring to [The Kelly File] but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.”
Frankly, her response was infuriating, nearly mimicking an elder sister scolding her younger sibling not to be so sensitive.
Simply looking at these pulled quotes would be unimpressive, but to listen to her tone during the explanation allows all viewers to believe Kelly was simply disturbed we could be so ignorant.
I, along with at least most of the human race, do not take kindly to someone insulting the public. Kelly then manages to make it worse by turning around and slapping said group in the face with a vocal inflection that could only say, “You are such an idiot for being offended by what I say.”
But, let’s take into consideration where her prime time slot is: Fox News. This is not a comment on anything besides the fact that Fox anchors have a history of potentially racist comments. They seem to speak their own truths quite often, and this is exactly what Kelly did.
Quite frankly, she is simply following in the footsteps of predecessors and colleagues alike. But, is it possible she could forge her own path at Fox?
Regardless, the only reason this little episode blew up is the subject matter: Santa and Jesus. This seems absurd when racism is still a fiery social issue, but Don Lemon himself said he got more public feedback on Santa and Jesus than on anything else this year.
This controversy is one that ultimately includes overreactions to overreactions themselves. Honestly, Aisha Harris’ article should have been left alone; the actual essay itself is quite interesting in that it brings racism to a tongue-in-cheek light. Harris succeeds in doing the unthinkable: discussing racial issues on a personal level that can be taken both seriously and lightly, avoiding insensitivity.
That is what should have been discussed–and, in my opinion, celebrated–not Santa’s color. I am positive that in this day in age, children generally do not care what “color” Santa is, as long as he continues to bring the presents.
In regards to kids’ perception on the color of Santa and other figures, it is up to those around them to develop the sense of what is true. As Harris grew up with a black Santa, Kelly grew up with a white Santa. As seen in the discussion at large, it seems that whatever one can identify with is what one will perceive.