Twenty years ago, I drew a politically incorrect picture I labeled “Christmas in Compton.” It showed Santa Claus riddled with bullets, lying at the bottom of a Christmas tree with a gangbanger wearing blue standing over him with a smoking Uzi. The “joke” being that Santa was wearing red in a Crips neighborhood.
Who knew that in 2013 there would be a kerfuffle about Santa involving not the color of his suit, but the color of his skin?
Aisha Harris, who is black, wrote a column on Slate.com earlier this month arguing that in a rapidly diversifying country, Santa Claus should no longer be an old white man but should be changed to a penguin. When she was a child, seeing black and white Santas bewildered her.
Last week, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, debating Harris’ column, proclaimed that both Santa and Jesus are white and it shouldn’t be changed. I don’t know why she included Jesus (who did not resemble the popular white depictions), but I thought it would cause a lot of controversy. But it’s the Santa being white that has raised a ruckus. We’re the Seinfeld of countries.
I reject the author’s premise that “millions of nonwhite kids” experience “insecurity and shame” over Santa Claus’ race. All kids love Santa Claus. Kids don’t see race when they see that jolly fellow who gives them presents.
But since white men have traditionally played Santa in shopping malls, what would white parents and kids think about seeing a black Santa? I say take the advice of Aisha Harris’ father when she asked him about black and white Santas when she was a kid. Her father explained that Santa had the ability to change his appearance to any color he wished.
Though Aisha didn’t buy it, I think what her dad said was great. We’re already telling kids that a man in the north pole delivers elf-made toys from a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer by somehow getting into houses and apartments that don’t have chimneys. Yet, Aisha balks at this one last fabrication? Really? Would she have bought it if he said Santa was a penguin?
When I was a kid, it wasn’t the race of Santa Claus that gave me pause. It was seeing Santa at the mall and then driving across town and seeing him ringing a Salvation Army bell. How did he get there so fast? My mother explained that these were Santa’s helpers, not the real Santa. I bought that.
Santa Claus is a fictional character. He exists in an ethnicity-free zone, sort of like Michael Jackson. Do you think it mattered to me the race of the jolly man bringing me the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip?
If we’re going to nitpick Santa’s race, why stop there? Santa is obese and setting a bad example eating all of those cookies and glasses of milk when he should be eating broccoli and string cheese. Is PETA investigating those poor reindeer forced to fly all over the world in one night? What about all the breaking and entering Santa does? Is that fur on his costume? How many baby harp seals did the elves club for that? And the elves! Is OSHA looking into the hours and freezing weather conditions the elves labor in?
Let’s face it. We are all complicit in a global conspiracy to lie to children. So any supportive untruths one must tell to uphold the central premise is fair game. Don’t worry about these types of lies because the nonwhite Jesus will forgive us.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.