Article by Mia Kawazu
As the well-known lyrics go, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.” This Christmas carol is a friendly, seemingly harmless song enjoyed by millions across the globe that exemplifies the joyousness of this wondrous winter season.
The problem, of course, is when race comes into the mix.
On December 11, 2013, Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly stirred controversy in her response to a Slate article that suggested Santa Claus be portrayed as a race other than Caucasian. The moment the Slate article was introduced on Fox News to be open for debate, Kelly denounced it, calling it “ridiculous”. “Santa just is white”, she claimed to the children watching at home.
Kelly’s comment was met with widespread heavy backlash, especially from television personalities such as Anderson Cooper of CNN and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. The former jested that he “[doesn’t] even know if he is white anymore,” calling Kelly’s comment “confusing.” On the other hand, the latter was much less sympathetic. Stewart publicly criticized Kelly’s close-mindedness with her statement that “just because something makes [someone] uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it has to change”: the very premise, he argues, of racial oppression.
Indeed, it is easy to accuse Kelly of taking her opinion a step too far, particularly in her assertion that “Jesus was a white man, too.” Stewart directly refutes her statement, pointing out solid evidence suggesting that Jesus was not Caucasian. Ultimately, there is little explanation for Kelly’s reference to such an important biblical figure to parallel a fictional character like Santa, and in doing so, she made her supposed ‘humorous’ jest on the show transform into a race issue.
Whether or not Megyn Kelly was insinuating that Santa Claus should be white is open to debate; that said, the fact that she was so averse to the idea of a different image of Santa Claus says much on its own. When one of her co-anchors playfully embraced the idea of a “penguin” Santa, Kelly adamantly rejected the notion, which clearly demonstrates her level of inflexibility. In advocating a solely white Santa, Kelly covertly rebuffed children’s imagination with respect to the race of Santa Claus, a fictitious character whose image is supposedly crafted by each child’s creativity.
The question remains: Does it even matter? To this, it is perhaps justified to respond with an emphatic “yes”.
Despite Christmas being a time of joy and celebration, Kelly’s debate has reminded society of the narrow-mindedness of many individuals, and of how even the smallest of things can be vessels through which racial bias is perpetuated. While it is true that the backlash to Kelly’s comments seems trivial and overdone, one thing remains clear: Kelly’s debate has disparaged the Christmas spirit by insinuating that Santa being Caucasian is the only possible route of reality.
However, we can still restore the holiday spirit if we truly want to. As diverse and internationally edified individuals capable of global thinking, it is imperative that we allow for all kinds of perspectives to be brought to the table, and not shoot down any views not akin to our own.
Who minds if Santa Claus is African? Asian? A penguin? The cheerful, celebratory sentiments that permeate Christmastime will continue despite this minute difference. And perhaps, with this mindset, we can help Christmas metamorphose into a truly universal holiday.