Opinion » The Rant

The Rant

What color are Santa and Jesus? Depends on who you ask.



Here are the latest dispatches from the front in the War 

on Christmas: Another of Fox News' soulless blond provocateurs,

Megyn Kelly, found her own little hot spot in the frigid northeast snow after

her pronouncement last week that Santa Claus and Jesus were white. While discussing an article written by Slate's Aisha Harris, which called for a more inclusive image of kindly Kris Kringle, and which described her childhood confusion of seeing a white Santa in the shopping mall and a black Santa in her home, Megyn Kelly said, "This is yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa." 


Then, attempting a humorous aside for all the world's children who may have been tuned in to The Kelly Files, she added, "By the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa is white, but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa." While her panel of white experts looked on in amused fascination, Kelly injected, "Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that's a verifiable fact," then adding with a wink, "as is Santa. I just wanted you kids to know that."

Not knowing when to stop digging, Kelly concluded her Santa diatribe by asking, "How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story, and just change Santa from white to black?"

After enduring a firestorm of media ridicule, Kelly, who has a law degree, blamed the "liberal press" for "race-baiting." Kelly's remarks are so dumb on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin, but she has yet to realize that her views reflect a certain smug, white entitlement that gives other Caucasoids a bad name. St. Nicholas — the patron saint of thieves, prostitutes, sailors, and children — is where the Santa Claus story begins. Nicholas, or Nikolaos, was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Lycia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. Known for his generosity to children and the poor, Nicholas may well have been a dark-skinned Mediterranean man reeking of garlic and feta cheese. A 15th-century Russian icon in the Swedish National Museum pictures St. Nicholas as a black man.

The Westernized version of Santa begins with the Dutch legend of Sinterklaas, who parallels Odin, a major god among the Germanic peoples. According to legend, the white-bearded Sinterklaas brings gifts to children on his feast day accompanied by a posse of mischievous helpers with black faces known as "Zwarte Piet." Literally translated, it means "Black Peters"— perhaps Megyn Kelly's worst nightmare.

In the middle ages, the feast day of Sinterklaas, December 6th, was known for mass displays of public drunkenness. Today, Sinterklaas doesn't arrive in Holland in a sleigh but on a steamboat from Spain in mid-November. Sinterklaas was eventually merged with the swarthy St. Nicholas and England's Father Christmas to bring us the jolly Santa we have come to know.

The classic white Santa didn't emerge until 1881, with a Thomas Nast illustration of Clement Moore's immortal poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," or what is currently known as "The Night Before Christmas." In Nast's illustration, St. Nick is depicted as a morbidly obese, red-suited man with red cheeks and proboscis gin blossoms — probably indicating a drinking problem — who forces "tiny" reindeer to haul his fat ass through the snow. If such a man appeared committing these acts during daylight hours, the ASPCA would have him arrested for cruelty, especially to poor Rudolph, who wasn't allowed to join in the reindeer games, a biennial, arctic caribou athletic competition. 

And if Santa is from the North Pole, either he's the only white man there or he's an indigenous Inuit, an Alaskan people who crossed a land bridge from Asia in the first century AD. This would likewise make Mrs. Claus an Inuit, a people whose diet consists principally of fish and caribou. Now we know what happens to reindeer that can't cut it anymore.

As for Megyn Kelly's "verifiable fact" that Jesus was white, I'm certain that he is blue-eyed in the picture on her wall, but that is in conflict with historical and geographical certainties. We know that Jesus was a Semite, born in Judea, and appeared among his contemporaries as one of them. This means that He was likely a dark-skinned man with curly black hair and facial features typical of the Semitic people of the time — or what some lesser-informed individuals refer to as "Jewish looking." If Jesus sat next to Megyn Kelly in an airport, she would likely report him to the NSA as a terrorist.

Kelly remains oblivious to the heart of the complaint — that white people should dictate the appearance of what non-whites should revere. In Kelly's world, allowing an ethnic group other than her own a different interpretation of the appearance of a fictional character is an act of inclusion that is simply beyond her comprehension.

The renowned 20th-century, Western philosopher Frank Zappa said in his 1966 song "Trouble Every  Day": "Hey, you know something, people? I'm not black, but there's a whole lots a times I wish I could say I'm not white." 

Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies Blog," where a version of this column first appeared.

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