The implications of Santa’s race
In a shining moment of generosity that many of you have probably heard of by now, unless you avoid Fox News and all mention of it like the plague-filled hovel that it is (and you’re probably better off for the effort), Megyn Kelly has declared Santa Claus to be all hers.
No, not in an “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” way, unless it’s where mommy is a hate-filled asshat as well who only wants to kiss Santa Claus if he’s as pasty white as she is, and goes so far as to declare that that is the only thing he could be.
Unless you’re entirely privilege-blinkered, this is blatantly racist. I mean, come on. It’s Santa. Santa doesn’t real. If he even has a race, why should it be white, unless you consider white the default/real/best/whatever Megyn Kelly thinks race.
In a moment of complete and utter inanity though, I actually considered this for a moment. What race would Santa Claus be if he was real? What does it say about us when we discuss this? When I thought about it, I realized that even the best of our attempts to be sensitive to the skin of old Saint Nick, we… still end up racist. We just evolve into a new, higher tier of racism that most people don’t see.
The problem is, we’ve decided as a culture that if Santa isn’t white, well, he’s black. Not to say that nobody ever acknowledges other Santas, but from what I see the main one is Black Santa.
This, too, is racism. And I don’t blame black people here, because on top of the fact that it isn’t their fault, we’re pretty much never aided by pinning underprivileged people against eachother. My theory, pulled admittedly straight from my ass– though nonetheless I think it has some merit– is that it’s better for the Kyriarchy if instead of saying that there’s a veritable rainbow of races, there’s one main race… and then the one, singular, other race. There’s white people, and then there’s black people. If we erase the grey (or yellow or brown or people who are both or neither) it means there’s less that we have to accept. We have a black santa, so we’ve accepted all races and our job is done. Phew. Right?
No. And when we call our job done after accepting one race, we are further disenfranchising other races, telling them that they are so not people that even when we’re being racially inclusive we don’t include them. Conversations are only just starting in mainstream social justice spaces about non-white and non-black people (take #NotYourAsianSidekick for example), and these conversations need to keep happening.
So let’s have one about Santa.
What race should Santa be, if we’re being fair to all races? White? Well, that’s unlikely if, say, Santa was born of an entirely random race on an entirely random continent before flying a reindeer to the north pole, because then there’s more than a 50% chance he’s Asian, which fits into neither the White Santa or Black Santa narratives.
We can also look at the original Saint Nicholas, hailing from Turkey. Following this, we end up with a Turkish Santa. Sorry, Black and White Santas.
But let’s take this a bit further. Let’s say Santa really is from the North Pole… or as close as you can get to it, anyways. He’d be from either Alaska, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Greenland. But there’s more than just those places there. What if Santa was actually of a group that was from the arctic circle?
Well, he’d be an indigenous person.
Despite the fact that we like to portray Santa as being white or black, he could easily be one of the groups we like to pretend doesn’t exist– one of the groups that, in our desire for manifest destiny, we nearly made not exist.
That’s what we say when we say Santa’s white… and then go to say, “No! We’re inclusive! He can be black!”
We say to all the other races, “You aren’t here. We don’t want you a part of our world culture.” And to some of the races, we say, “we know that if Santa was actually real and from the place we say he is from, he’d be one of you. But we don’t even want you to exist so we won’t even entertain the notion.”
There’s so much deeper we could dig into this. All of the races I’ve looked at have been just one race– and often forgotten in our cultural narrative, too, are multiracial people. Why should Santa be of one race? All his possibilities for a racial background could easily point to any number of fanfiction-like racial backstories. Maybe his mother was a native person from the arctic circle who met a nice Turkish man, fell in love, and asked him, “want to birth an immortal creature that will fly around the world putting gifts in socks with me?”
Holiday headcanons aside, the way we look at race is wrong. We’re loathe to say even fictional beings are anything but white, and if we can accept that they might not be, they have to be black. We don’t even begin to think about any of the multitude of races out there, much less those people who are a mix of races.
And that is some festive racism right there.