Thursday, December 19, 2013

Does Santa Claus Have to Be White?

A network that shall go unnamed provoked a furor when a (white) person said it's a historical fact that Jesus and Santa are both white, so get over it. Um, no. It's a historical fact that they've been portrayed as white. Jesus, although technically 'white' due to being Caucasian, was a Semite -- an Arab or Jew. His complexion was therefore most likely swarthy and his hair and eyes dark. He probably looked like all the other guys from the Middle East. In other words, if Jesus was alive today, he'd probably be racially profiled and on the Do Not Fly list.

Here are some possible ideas for what Jesus looked like/would look like today:

As for Santa, the historical St. Nicholas lived in Turkey. Turkish people are of Asian descent. Nicholas spoke Greek, so he may have been of Greek descent, and therefore white, but then again, just because somebody speaks a particular language doesn't mean their ancestry is in that ethnic group, or that his ancestors didn't intermarry. In other words, he too was probably a swarthy guy with dark hair and eyes.

Here are some traditional religious depictions of St. Nicholas:

When we get to Santa Claus, the jolly old elf, we're on more certain ground. Elves have traditionally been depicted as Celtic types with blond or ginger hair. But then again, thanks to modern fantasy games and novels, we now have dark elves and a host of other colorations for elves. Elves aren't just for white people any more.

Some dark-skinned elves:

What does Santa Claus stand for? Calcified racial attitudes? Or goodness, kindness, and generosity with good will toward all? If it's the latter, why shouldn't Santa Claus be portrayed as a black man, or by a person of any other race? Santa Claus is a myth. Myths evolve to explains things about the world to ourselves. What is the myth of 'only white men can be Santa' explaining to us?

If you have trouble getting over the traditional expectation, let me point out: Santa Claus is magic enough to be able to fly around the world in one night. If his magic is that powerful, why couldn't he appear any way he wishes? And why wouldn't he? I can readily imagine Santa Claus appearing in whatever way he thinks is suited to a particular part of the world. For instance, is he really wearing a fur suit while delivering to tropical countries? Maybe he adopts the local attire so that he's dressed for the local weather. His sleigh holds toys for all the world's girls and boys; I'm sure there's room for a suitcase for Santa Claus.

Santa Claus has to be white? Bah, humbug!

But how do you explain it to the kids? That this Santa Claus is black, but the one they saw in the other store is white!?

Well, there's always the same old 'Santa Claus helpers' story my mother told me when I was perspicacious enough to ask why there was more than one Santa Claus.

But I just thought up another explanation: 'Santa' means 'Mister' in the languages of elves. Therefore, he's 'Mr. Claus.' And all those Santa Clauses are Mr. Clauses, and they're all related: brothers and cousins and uncles and grandpas and so on -- the Clauses are one big happy family who work together to give children a happy Christmas.

Isn't that the message of Christmas? Family coming together and setting aside their differences to focus on what Christmas really means?