Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yes, Virginia, it depends on what you mean by Santa.

The disappearance of widespread fear of witches, (sorry Mrs. Palin) and the age old need for blaming things on them has left us trying to fill the void with Communists, sexual predators and racists, amongst a few others.  So when the somewhat loathsome Megyn Kelly, used her position on the always loathsome Fox News to stress that like Jesus, Santa Claus was a white man, the accusations of racism were not far behind.

I have to wonder however. Leaving the Jesus question aside -- the question of whether Jews are considered white by most modern 'authorities' -- I have to wonder just how biased it might be to assert that St. Nicholas, a 4th century Greek resident (and Bishop) of  Patara was white as well.  The sort of saint we Americans call Santa Claus  seems to have lost the connection with the real 4th century Saint in more ways than weight. The department store employee and Coca Cola pitch man whose nickname now rhymes with 'straws' rather than 'house' in America now only gives gifts to children and leaves prostitutes to fend for themselves. But he's still of European extraction.

Does that mean, as  Aisha Harris asserted in, that 'forcing' Santa only to be white caused non-white children “insecurity and shame.”  Argue about the color of God and perhaps she has a valid idea, but I'm sorry, God is a human creation, created in our image. St. Nicholas was what he was - a Greek white male. Jesus was still Jewish even if it makes everyone else feel left out during Simchat Torah. If you want to get Biblicaly literal here, the first man was Red and if he was an image of God himself -- well then. More scientifically the first man was African and dark skinned.  Am I offended?  Seriously?

Now if she's suggesting that the real Santa is the guy at Macy's I once visited in the late 40's, that's a different question.  If he's the incarnate spirit of generosity Virginia was told about,?  Kindess, compassion, love -- these have no color.  I'm all for black Santas, Mohican Santas, Mexican Santas and Chinese elves because for atheist me, that's all there is to Christmas, but hey, some people are still serious about their religion and about history and have a right to be.  As Americans we get to determine our own traditions, or should and the often malicious Megyn may be right.  If history offends thee, thou getteth not  to rewrite it.

I have to wonder  about the controversy in the Netherlands, where the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas, a strong influence on our tradition is accompanied by companion Black Pete or Zwarte Piet,  giver of sweet treats to children. Wouldn't you know that the character, usually a Dutchman in blackface and curly wig, according to the racially sensitive Dutch could be interpreted as a "racist caricature of a black man."   I suppose it could be, but as an immensely loved character, which children is he alienating?  

Isn't racism, or at least the kind we rightly object to, about imputing negative things to a distinctive group? Is it racist to insist Michael Jordan is black?  Nelson Mandela? So we, or some of us,  are damned if he's black and damned if he's white and we go on arguing about which of us is free of prejudice while real racists are left alone.

You know what I want for Christmas? 

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