Are we really arguing about what color Santa Claus is? Has anyone broken the news to the people arguing that he’s just a fictitious character?
That’s right. Santa doesn’t exist. But that hasn’t stopped culture warriors from trying to turn him into a cause. On Fox News this week, anchor Megyn Kelly started the ball rolling.
“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly told viewers. “Santa is what he is…. I wanted to get that straight.”
Other people have struck back, arguing that to claim Santa is white is “oppressive.” In the Los Angeles Times, there was a piece about why “we deserve a Santa for the people, not just white folks.” Over at the progressive left website Think Progress, they were writing about “Megyn Kelly’s fear of a black Santa.” And a blogger at the conservative Washington Times was defending Kelly and writing about “why Santa Claus’ skin color matters.”
One of my friends reports that a very intelligent friend of his believes that “having a white Santa is just cultural dominance over a disenfranchised and unempowered race and we might want to consider transitioning to a less-white Santa and for me to insist that a character keep his image just because said character is and always has been depicted as a white male is oppressive in nature.”
That’s right. Our culture has been reduced to arguing about whether a fictitious character’s ethnicity is “cultural dominance” over “disenfranchised” people and what kind of Santa “we deserve.”
To all of the combatants, I simply say, “Who cares?”
Santa Claus didn’t start in his present form. He’s culturally created and that’s fine. I’m not going to bore you with all of the historical background that led to the current character, but he’s a mixture of bits and pieces of different things — St. Nicholas, Odin, Father Christmas and half a dozen other things. Various people in various places have blended the stories. Different people swear that their version is the real version. The advertising people at Coca Cola have even had a lot to do with our present view of Santa, as have countless Hollywood movies over the years.
At this point, Santa Claus is simply a broad cultural character in the public domain that can be modified (or not) at the whim of the person telling the story. You can make him whatever you want.
Yes, Santa was traditionally a white guy, because he was created by white cultures. In the same way that other fictitious characters can be transformed into something else, Santa can be transformed further, too. As far as I’m concerned, Santa will remain a white guy who looks like someone out of a Coke ad. If someone else wants to show the guy as black or Hispanic or Chinese or whatever, I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t insist that I’m required to conform to his ideas of what the character ought to be.
Stories and characters can survive just fine as they’re transplanted from one culture to another. There’s no need to make it into anything political. It’s not oppressive if Santa remains white for me, but I’m not threatened if you make him a gay African albino with rides a giant yellow banana pulled by miniature unicorns.
Hamlet is sometimes staged with a black Hamlet. Or a gay Hamlet. So what? Santa’s no different. (Former First Lady Nancy Reagan didn’t have any problem with Mr. T as Santa.) Whoever wants to tell the story can tell it as he pleases. You can have a black Santa if you want. Just don’t whine if I don’t go along with your political agenda about it.
For the people who are screaming — on both sides of this issue — Santa isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that they’re angry when other people won’t believe what they want them to believe and act as they want them to act. Santa is just another symbol in a long-running culture war.
I’m a non-combatant in this idiotic culture war. I think other sane and honest people should ignore it, too.