Fox News’ Megyn Kelly said Wednesday night that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white guys. If you are as shocked as I am to hear this, well, you are not shocked at all.
The whole problem of Jesus’ ethnicity came about because on Tuesday, Aisha Harris, who is black, dared to write in Slate about black Santa or even a penguin Santa, and that offended Megyn Kelly, who said,
In Slate, they have a piece, ‘Santa Claus should not be a white man anymore.’ And when I saw this headline I kinda laughed and I thought this is so ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa, you know. And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white but this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But Santa is what he is and we’re just debating this because somebody wrote about it, kids.
Yeah, don’t let those white kids think Santa might not look like he’s from Dusseldorf.
You know, I’ve given her her due. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?
It makes you think, and I’ve written about this here before, that when conservatives say they want a “white” Christmas, they really mean they want a WHITE Christmas. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Andy Williams had in mind when he sang,
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
He was singing about snow. Not skin. Just sayin’.
And the thing is, by white you know perfectly well what Kelly means is “white European.” As in the northern European Jesus you see in paintings in churches across the country and online. But Jesus was a Jew, not a German. That much is historically attested unless you want to believe, as some Romans did, that Jesus’ father was a Roman soldier not God (not impossible on a historical basis, at least).
Another problem is that the idea of “white people” did not exist in the Roman world. The Romans themselves did not much care what color your skin was and nobody else seemed to care much either, except as a means of identification. The Romans even had an Arab emperor, Philip, and Syrians too. The idea of homosexuality as a category dates only to the 19th century. The very idea of white goes back only to the 17th century.
Shows you where the Republicans are stuck, doesn’t it?
Harris took to Slate again on Thursday to say, “I hoped the piece would come across as a little tongue-in-cheek, while at the same time expressing my real concern that America continues to promote the harmful idea of whiteness-as-default.”
And yes, Christians like to trace Santa back to St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia, in what is now Southern Turkey. Admittedly, we don’t know what tint Lycian skin possessed but it’s fairly safe to say he wasn’t a black guy. He may have looked middle eastern or he may have looked Greek, but like a Greek without Slavic features. That’s fine. But as I pointed out here the other day, Santa is the Norse Valfather, Odin, and his eight reindeer hearken to Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse and his ride through skies to Odin’s Wild Hunt.
Odin, at least, is definitely a white guy because the ancient Norse were white dammit, and they, like all ancient peoples, envisioned gods who looked like them – and why not since in the earliest of days they didn’t know anybody else. But do Gods have skin color? Nobody has seen Odin just as nobody has seen St. Nicholas or Jesus, and some people will claim they’re all mythical anyway so why are we even having this discussion?
We are having this discussion because Megyn Kelly being made uncomfortable gives us insight into the conservative’s fear of the Other. It all comes down to white people being made uncomfortable by “icky brown” people and by a challenge to their preconceptions. And when Megyn Kelly claims that what she says is a “verifiable fact” she is talking out of her indelicate end, to put it delicately. Few details of individuals from that long ago can be verified. They had no cameras. They left no paintings and certainly nobody made any statues of Jesus.
What IS a verifiable fact is that Fox News does not care about verifiable facts. Megyn Kelly has never been in close proximity to a verifiable fact. If she did, she would melt. As Black Liberal Boomer wrote here yesterday, “nothing spells Christmas spirit like a big fat white lie.”
And what really happened Wednesday on Fox News is that if a white Jesus made Aisha Harris uncomfortable, a Jewish Jesus made Megyn Kelly uncomfortable, no less than the idea of a historical Jesus who championed the poor and condemned the rich makes any Republican uncomfortable. Facts are a violation of the neat little world Republicans have made to cocoon themselves from reality. No non-white Santa or non-white Jesus can get into that gated community.
Let’s face the facts: In all likelihood, neither Jesus nor Nicholas, would have been invited home to dinner by white Evangelicals. And if Jesus had made it through the door, he would have found himself on the street the moment he started to talk about poor people and prostitutes and tax collectors and the evils of the wealthy, who – rather than Jesus – are the real gods of Republican America.