In a piece published on Slate this week, Aisha Harris, who is black, wrote about her confusion as a child over Santa’s race. In her piece — titled “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore” — Harris proposes that we change Santa to, well, something that isn’t classified by race, like a penguin.
Why, you ask? For one thing, making Santa Claus an animal rather than an old white male could spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame that I remember from childhood. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course). That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white—and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a “joke” or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes—helps perpetuate the whole “white-as-default” notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).
Plus, people love penguins. There are blogs dedicated entirely to their cuteness. They’re box office gold. Most importantly, they’re never scary (in contrast to, say, polar bears and reindeer). Most kids love Santa—because he brings them presents. But human Santa can be terrifying—or at least unsettling.
And, with a penguin Santa, much Christmas folklore can remain unchanged. Being a penguin, Santa Claus can still reside in a snowy homeland—though for scientific accuracy we’ll need to move him from the North Pole to the South. He can still rock a fake white beard and red suit if he chooses. Since penguins can’t fly, Rudolph and his fellow reindeer will remain a crucial element to getting the job done on Christmas Eve. You may have even spotted a penguin here and there already among the holiday books and Christmas kitsch.
Naturally, this has been a topic of conversation on Fox News and last night on her show Megyn Kelly went to great pains to make sure that any children watching knew that Santa is, in fact, white.
And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids…Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that.
Someone should tell Megyn Kelly that Santa, a man who runs a elf sweatshop on a giant, uninhabitable frozen landscape and flies through the air with deer to deliver present to all the world’s children in a single night, is not a person who actually exists.