Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Culture Wars & Santa Penguin

Around a week ago Slate Columnist Aisha Harris wrote a column proclaiming that Santa Claus should no longer be represented as an old white man. In stead he should be a penguin. That inspired Fox News' Megyn Kelly to say that Santa is white as is Jesus. The controversy has spiraled since then.

I'll save Harris's column for last and start with the controversy. The Left has been jumping all over Kelly for her assertions that Jesus and Santa were white. Nonsense, they say. Jesus was Jewish and Santa was Turkish (Harris claimed that he was Greek). This is a subject that most on the Left normally would never touch with a ten foot pole. Normally it's only racists who start saying that Jews and people from the Middle-East in general aren't white. Bill O'Reilly suggested that this is a false controversy stirred up to demonize Fox News. It's hard to argue with that.

The actual Jesus was, of course, Israeli and probably had black hair and brown eyes. Saint Nicholas was from Asia Minor (now Turkey) and also probably had dark hair and brown eyes. Neither would have had brown skin and neither was a sub-Sahara African. Santa Clause came to us through the Dutch who changed his name and celebrated him as the patron saint of children (also mariners and pawn brokers). He was really introduced to Americans around 200 years ago in the classic poem A Visit From St. Nick. The description was of a white man with rosy cheeks. That image was set by the end of the 19th century and refined with some 20th century Coke ads.

So, what brought on Harris's original column? Sometime in the last 20 years or so, black families started putting up representations of Santa with dark skin. When Harris asked her father about this, she was old that Santa is all colors. She internalized this and became offended that the "default representation" of Santa is white. To some extent her original column is a complaint that Santa is supposed to be represented as many colors. Since whites don't do this then the image needs to be taken away from them.

All of this is news to most whites who seldom see the Black Santa and never heard Harris's father explain that Santa is all colors.

Harris is part of a growing minority movement that says, "It hurts my feelings when you remind me that I'm in the minority." This includes complaints about teaching history as "dead white guys".

People need to step back and take a breath. Kelly did not say anything particularly outrageous and the faux-outrage is mainly an attempt to discredit Fox News.

Minorities do need better representation in the media but making over major symbols such as Santa Claus is highly divisive and leads to worsening racial relations.

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