Santa Claus Debate Has Broader Racial Implications

Slate culture blogger Aisha Harris found herself in the middle of a little kerfuffle recently over Santa Claus, of all things. Harris wrote a piece suggesting the traditional white Santa might better serve the world today as a penguin. Before you go off the rails, she makes a valid argument – kids love cartoons, and penguins are popular and media friendly. Having an animal as the symbol might in fact be more inclusive.

Of course, when Fox News picked up the story, it became something decidedly less inclusive and more divisive, which completely misses the point. If ever there was a reason why diversity work must continue, Fox News is it. The station – specifically Megyn Kelly – doesn’t seem to care in the least about accuracy.

For instance, Harris never said it was racist to have a white Santa. She simply pointed out that society’s longstanding default habit of stamping certain things white just because doesn’t make sense anymore.

What’s really interesting is some of the Fox pundits – and I use that word loosely – in this particular broadcast take such a firm stance: Santa can’t be black. Really?

Then one says, you can’t change facts to suit a political or sensitivity agenda. *Crickets chirping in complete and utter silence* That just isn’t true. People do it all the time. Fox News does it all the time by throwing around supposedly verifiable facts that actually aren’t.

For instance, in the same broadcast Megyn also said that Jesus has to be white, “has” in italics. I say again, really? I’m not going to engage in the debate – I don’t have enough time or space to create a credible defense – but I will go out on a fairly sturdy limb and say, there’s enough info out there, based on where Jesus comes from geographically, to suggest that he’s not white either.

But the point is as Harris suggests: why do we automatically default to white imagery for certain pivotal figures? “Changing Santa does not mean we’re being ‘politically correct.’ It means we’re expanding our perceptions of the ‘norm,’” she explained in a rebuttal piece.

White is not always right, and like Harris says, “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.”