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Remember just last week when we talked about the picture I posted on social media of the guy who looked like the popular depiction of Jesus selling Christmas trees in my neighborhood?
Well this week I’ve been outdone by a Fox News anchor who emphatically stated not only that Jesus was white, but that Santa Claus is white too.
Oh boy, that really got everyone up in arms. News columns were written, blogs, editorials. It became the lead story on the news channels. I even covered it on my own show on CNN.
And after I played the Fox interview for the panel on my show, I somehow found it hard to control my laughter.
I guess it was a confluence of events. One was that I was actually discussing the topic on national television for obvious reasons.
The other was, in the moment, the host’s emphasis on Santa’s race being white just struck me as funny, even absurd.
Even more absurd was that no one on her show challenged her or even batted an eye to her Santa and Jesus are white declaration.
But as someone who has been misquoted and misinterpreted, my first inkling was to cut the host some slack. If she meant that the traditional and popular depiction of Santa is white, then she is absolutely right.
But that’s not what she said.
Her quote was, “For all you kids watching at home Santa is just white.”
A few days later she clarified by saying almost verbatim what I said; that she meant the popular depiction of Santa is white.
Again, that was not her original statement.
And that’s not what most people in the country heard.
Even if we all got it wrong, there’s still something presumptive about her original statement.
It presumes white as the default race in a country with rapidly shifting demographics.
I won’t go into too much history on Santa but the person who Santa is based on, St. Nicholas, he was Greek and from a part of the world now known as southern Turkey – not a place of fair-skinned rosy cheeked people who look like the current popular versions of Santa.
The news anchor later said she was surprised that her off-hand comment spoken in jest became a national firestorm.
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and take her at her word.
But what she should be aware of is that there’s a reason certain phrases become clichés.
One of them goes like this, “many a truth is often spoken in jest.”
And by saying what she said she may have unwittingly exposed a deeper truth not only about her own beliefs, but about many people’s beliefs in America- that Santa is and should be just like them- white.
Santa’s Shade: How a Fictional Character Represents Race in America was originally published on blackamericaweb.com