Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress:
Much of Megyn Kelly’s mainstream appeal to viewers who wouldn’t normally praise an employee of Fox News is the idea that she’s not afraid to stand up to stupid memes or willful denials of the facts, whether she’s smacking down Dr. Keith Ablow’s fearmongering about transgender people or bowing to the evidence and calling Ohio for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. But last night, she provided a reminder of why she’s a good fit for the network that employs her.
In response to a piece by Aisha Harris in Slate that was half a joking suggestion that Santa Claus be replaced by a cheerful penguin, and half a heartfelt reflection on the difficulties of not seeing any part of yourself in an omnipresent cultural symbol, Kelly decided to dig in on an odd priority: declaring that Santa Claus has always been an old white guy, and an old white guy he must remain. “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” she declared confidently. “I mean, Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure. That’s verifiable fact, as is Santa. I just want the kids watching to know that. But my point is, how do you just revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black.”
Or is it that Santa Claus is a figure who defies certain rules we teach our children? He’s a stranger who’s allowed to enter our houses without an explicit invitation, and to do so when we’re asleep and vulnerable. In setting out milk and cookies, we’re even giving him permission to stay a while. At a time when a lot of children are taught to be suspicious of strangers, especially men, and who aren’t supposed to let people who aren’t blood family, close family friends, or educators touch them, that rule is suspended for Santa Claus. Children are encouraged to sit on Santa’s lap and confide in him. That special exemption is why we find stories about mall Santas who are sexual offenders a particular betrayal of our trust. If you’re freaked out by the prospect of a non-white Santa Claus, it’s probably worth asking yourself if some of that objection comes from the fact that you might be less comfortable making these exceptions for a man of color.
That lack of charity isn’t exactly shocking. Many of the less savory parts of Kelly’s career involve stoking fears against black men, whether she’s spinning conspiracy theories about the New Black Panther Party’s influence on elections or giving airtime to a source who suggests avoiding groups of young black men as part of the scare-mongering coverage of the so-called “knockout game.”
It’s very nice, and very convenient, to have the world set up so you’re rarely asked to identify with or admire people who don’t look like you. But the very reason white folks cling to the privilege of having whiteness as a default is an argument for why we should extend our fellow citizens the same courtesy. It’s nice to see yourself reflected in media and tradition. It’s a relief. There’s absolutely no good reason, historical or otherwise, that white people should have a monopoly on that experience or that safe harbor. Christmas isn’t the only occasion on which that should be the case. But you have to be a real Grinch to suggest that it isn’t a perfectly fine time of the year to start.
There is a lot more and you should go read it. Rosenberg makes some valid points, but it’s a bad argument nonetheless. It’s bad because this is the kind of argument that people come up with when they live in an echo chamber.
It’s less than two weeks before Christmas. Is the denying the existence and/or questioning the race of Santa Claus really the hill you want to die on at this time of year? Even if you win, you lose.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in law school was from an instructor whose day job was as an appellate justice. He started out as a prosecutor and worked his way up. He said “Don’t sacrifice your credibility with stupid arguments.”
Pretty much everyone loves Santa – even atheists and other non-Christians. Anyone who ever watched Miracle on 34th Street knows that you can’t win by attacking Santa. If ThinkProgress, Media Matters and other Vile Progs want to pick a fight with FOX News over Santa Claus I wish them a lot of luck.
They’re gonna need it.