Dec 172013
 

jewel bush

A few nights ago, my 10-year-old son turned to me and said, “I hate that everybody thinks Santa is white.”

“In every TV show and movie besides ‘Martin,’ Santa is white… the real Santa is white. The only time he’s black is if a black person is entertaining black kids,” his musings continued. “Santa Claus could be skinny and doesn’t like cookies. What if he just has a moustache?”

My son’s questioning of the mainstream mythology and direct rebuttal of the monolithic template of the man in the red suit made my heart proud.

You see, I never taught my son to believe in Santa Claus. In my home, Santa isn’t a higher power. Santa is nothing more than a character like SpongeBob or Steve Urkel.

I didn’t want my son to view white people or white men, in particular, as the gift bearers of the world. As black people, we are bombarded with images that reinforce a belief system that places value outside of ourselves and our communities. We are taught to revere whiteness from the toys we select (black girls selecting white dolls because they deem them prettier due to the Eurocentric standard of beauty that has been shoved down their – our — throats) to Christian iconography (the white Jesus hanging on the wall in black places of worship) right down to jolly ole St. Nicholas.

We ingest these messages. They seep into our subconscious, color how we view ourselves in the world and become our ethos; one that places the greatest worth on a culture that is not our own.

Just because my son isn’t taught to believe in Santa doesn’t mean he goes around ruining Christmas for other children whose families have a different set of ideals. Nor is he some miniature adult void of imagination, whose innocence has been stolen because I refuse to present fiction as fact about a guy in a sleigh traveling to all of the houses in the entire universe — chimney or no chimney — in one night to deliver gifts to all the good little boys and girls. During the holidays, our family exchanges gifts so he’s well aware of where his presents come from. I work hard to buy those jerseys and trinkets he wants — Legos, action figures and videos games — so on a purely selfish note, I want my credit.

Santa was an early lesson in acceptance and respect for other people’s practices in my household. I guess I could have eased up on the politics and let my kid have Santa, but the world shows no sign of slowing its many mass-marketing campaigns to influence what we hold dear, namely, extreme consumerism — haute couture, pricey gadgets and devices, social status, money, excess – all the while damning critical thinkers who refuse to subscribe to the superficiality of it all, dismissing them as “haters.”

“It’s all on the commercials. Every commercial you see, he’s white,” my son added, growing more aware of his new revelation.

Even at this age, he’s enough of a thinker to challenge the commercial Santa narrative, which places him ahead of many adults who blindly accept constructs that do not serve them or their families and insist that Santa is, and, forever will be white. A man. Fat. With a beard.

“It would be better if Santa was mixed,” my son concluded.

But according to FOX News reporter Megyn Kelly, who asserted her cultural dominance in a recent debate on the race of Santa, Santa is white and that’s just the way it is.

“So, in Slate, they have a piece, .com, Santa Claus shouldn’t be a white man anymore. And when I saw this headline, I kind of laugh and so I said, this is so ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. You know? And by the way, for all the kids watching at home, Santa just is white but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa,” said Kelly, on a FOX News segment that aired on December 11.

There’s so much wrong with Kelly’s statement that I don’t know where to begin. For starters, Kelly and FOX News are purposely controversial and inflammatory.  These comments are in line with Kelly and FOX News’ typical race-baiting style of reporting, if you can call it that. This also proves why more people, especially the little ones, should dissect the universal depiction of Santa as white. Kelly proclaims that Jesus is white too.

When Kelly was dinged on her comments, her response was that her remarks were “tongue in cheek,” nothing more than a joke. But you see, Kelly wasn’t joking; and now she’s plain ole lying. In the world Kelly perpetuates, white is the default setting and whiteness is the center of the universe. There’s nothing funny here about teaching children to worship figures and adopt a culture that are clearly not for them.

We must encourage our children to question and grant them the autonomy to think for themselves and instill in them the courage to hold fast to their opinions even if they are unpopular. From God to Santa Claus, of all the things I can teach my son, believing and trusting in himself is by far the most vital.

jewel bush, a New Orleans native, is a writer whose work has appeared in The (Houma) Courier, The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and El Tiempo, a bilingual Spanish newspaper. In 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers Collective, a multi-genre group for writers of color in New Orleans dedicated to cultivating the literary, artistic and professional growth of emerging writers. Her three favorite books are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

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  • Craig

    I find it remarkable that Ms. Kelly claimed Jesus was white. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of biblical geography knows that if Jesus were here in the flesh in modern day USA, he likely would be profiled by a TSA agent. It’s a disgusting proclamation (yet not surprising) to hear from Fox News. I guess it’s their attempt to reaffirm that this country is so thoroughly a “Christian nation” that we can rewrite the history of Christ to conveniently fit whatever image we need it to.

    Jewel, it sounds like you are a great, thoughtful parent. I wish more parents here (and around the country) would pass on a little more contempt for consumerism to their offspring.

    • Romulus

      Semites are white. Just like Greeks, including Nicholas. Jewel wants to live in a world where reality is personally constructed. IOW, she wants to be disconnected from reality.

      • Craig

        No. Wrong. Miserably and comically wrong. Go read up on the history behind the meaning of ‘Semite’ and recognize just how ignorant your statement was.

  • Deux amours

    I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus. He was white, with a white beard and ling hair. He was short and portly. He seemed to be wearing rouge on his cheeks. He was dressed in a red suit and black boots. I’d recognize him anywhere.

  • Jamal Melancon

    Great article Ms. Bush! We certainly are “bombarded with images that reinforce a belief system that places value outside of ourselves and our communities.”

  • Jamal Melancon

    It’s not about caring what race Santa is. It’s about having your own interpretation of a fictional character, adjusting that interpretation to your culture, if you so choose. Ms. Bush is not advocating for “Santa” to be aligned with any race. She’s saying that no interpretation for Santa’s race should be “wrong” because he’s not real. Also, taking about race is only a good thing, Mr. NolaMan.

  • Cannibal Special

    Ms. Bush, while I can see how this piece can be construed as race-baiting, upon deeper examination, I see little more than ham-handed bashing of FOX News (most deserved!!!) and gross holiday consumerism (the 70s called and they want “A Charlie Brown Christmas” back). When I was a kid, I imagined a future world where everyone’s skin was light brown and there was no racial strife. (The term “mixed” was not used politely in those days!) Your son’s “revelations” about Santa Claus are no more earth-shattering than my utopian fantasies. Every child becomes aware of the world around them at some point and asks similar questions. Don’t pull a muscle patting yourself on the back!

  • Marcus B

    Racially-drive, close-minded commentary is unfortunately what I have come to expect from this column. I guess my disagreement makes me an “Uncle Tom”? Please Ms. Bush. My Grandmother used to tell me that when someone injects race in a discussion, the individual had run out of facts and was desperate…play the race card much?

  • Devin

    I certainly don’t mind the musings on race in america… but Santa is actually based on a historical person. St. Nicolas – who was from a small town in Turkey – then became the Bishop of Myra (also in Turkey). The people from that region look pretty European. So…even though Santa is a character like Sponge Bob – he is based on an actual person.

    if you go to the church there…. the old paintings of St. Nicolas look kinda like the actor Bill Murray. Anyway….

  • RRod3

    So, am I supposed to be upset that Spongebob is yellow? What if I imagine him as a red sponge? I mean, I want my kids to imagine Spongbob however they choose. They should make spongebob toys in every color possible. I don’t want to reinforce the idea that yellow sponges, especially male sponges, are shy and winy.

    Blue from Blues Clues is always portrayed as blue. I’ve always imagined him as a orange dog, but I’ll have to make do. Is it the same for Spiderman, Lando Calrissian, Bilbo Baggins, etc?

    Roughly 70% of the US is of European descent. Stories and myths have been passed down for generations. It’s hard to redefine folklore that has been around close to a millenia. Not every character’s portrayal is going to match each and every one of our skin tones. It is unfortunate that the “default setting” is white for a sizable chunk of the human characters in those stories.

    My question is, if there’s a Santa at the mall, what should be his race/color? No matter what, he’s not going to be the same color as me.

  • Craig

    “Who cares?” Says the guy who took the time to post a lengthy comment intentionally distorting the author’s position. Calm down, son.