Sunday, December 15, 2013

Megyn Kelly can't whitewash her Jesus and Santa rant

Dear Megyn Kelly:

So you went and said something moronic on air about how Santa Claus and Jesus are both "white men". I have to admit, when I first saw your quoted remarks I wasn't really surprised, because I know you work for a network where everyone is paid to say moronic things. Comments like these are pretty much par for the course, no?

But still I'm disappointed, Megyn. And when I watched the actual clip, the seven-minute segment of your show where you went on repeating your "white" assertion, I felt I really needed to drop you a note. I think it's time you and your colleagues grew up and started recognizing what the world is really like.

"Santa just IS white. . . . Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change, you know. . . . Jesus was a white man too." --Megyn Kelly bringing the Christmas cheer on Fox News.

From the outset I should point out that I think it's fine if you picture Santa or Jesus to yourself as "white". If you are a Christian, you probably have an image of Jesus in your mind, and of course you have your own mental images of Santa Claus too. People all around the world do.

What bothers me is that it seems to matter so deeply to you that Santa and Jesus "ARE white", as you put it--that they are actually in essence somehow white. So that you start to get angry if you see them depicted otherwise, as if real history were being distorted or your rights were being trampled on.

As for me, though I am "white" like you, Megyn, and come from the "American heartland", I now live in a country where Santa is often shown as Asian, and I have also been in churches where Jesus and his apostles are shown as Chinese, churches where they are shown as black, churches where they look like Central American farmers.

None of these depictions bothers me in the least. Maybe if you got out of your little white shell now and then, you would feel less bothered yourself. The fact is that each culture will tend to represent Jesus or Santa as one of their own. It helps people feel closer to these figures. And this, after all, is the point, is it not?

But I want to consider the problem of your remarks in a bit more depth. I find your assertion that Santa is white and your assertion that Jesus is white each troubling in its own way. Because whereas the one remark suggests almost a kind of psychosis, the other can only come from deep historical ignorance. Yes, it's true your network has accomplished much by repeatedly combining these two (psychosis and ignorance) but I remain kind of old school when it comes to thinking through cultural or religious issues. I prefer to separate out the strands, as it were.

Let's consider Santa's case first. When I hear you assert that Santa is a white man, I feel kind of like I might feel if an adult were to tell me in all seriousness that the Tooth Fairy is a brunette and NOT a blonde, and that I SHOULDN'T START THINKING OF THE TOOTH FAIRY AS A BLONDE. That IT WOULD OFFEND THE TOOTH FAIRY TO TALK THIS WAY.

Are you actually an adult, Megyn? Because this is how ridiculous you sound. After all, Santa Claus, as gift-bearing benefactor from the North Pole, doesn't even exist. He's a legendary figure, as even Sean Hannity might know, and any community can represent him as whatever race they want. And this is in fact what they do.

But here is the image of Santa you ran on your show as an example of what Santa "really" looks like:

This guy is fine if it works for you, Megyn. But everyone is entitled to have their own Santa. My Santa, for instance, looks like this:

Or sometimes like this:

But the simple truth, Megyn, is that Santa Claus, to the extent there is a verifiable historical figure behind him, wasn't even what you would call "white". Our legendary Santa is historically based on St Nicholas, a 4th century saint who lived in what is now Turkey. Based on careful study of his relics, combined with knowledge of the historical community he was born in, a facial anthropologist working with a digital artist projected what the saint may well have looked like. The project was completed in 2004. Here, then, is as close as we can get to the "real" Santa:

I know you, Megyn. If a man looking like this sat down next to you on a flight, you would feel a bit uneasy. Certainly you'd never mistake him for what you think of as a "white man". And if he then told you, a minute after seating himself, "Did you know, Megyn? I'm not just any old flyer. I'm actually Santa Claus. And I've brought something just for you in my luggage"--if he told you this I think you'd try to get yourself off that plane before takeoff. But that would be very ungrateful of you, Megyn, wouldn't it? Because next to you in that seat was the REAL Santa Claus! And you, in your hysterical fear, went and offended him!

But let's move on from Santa to a historical figure I care much more about, namely Jesus of Nazareth. Again I want to say, Megyn, that it's fine with me if you imagine Jesus as a "white man". Here are a few images of the Jesus you probably conjure in your mind when you think of him:

There's nothing wrong with these images (although I find the first one kind of frightening, as if Jesus were a mix between Orlando Bloom and E.T., with a bit of Taylor Swift thrown in). Still, we know from history and forensic anthropology that the actual Jesus almost certainly didn't look like these images, that instead he probably looked more like this:

This is a projection of Jesus' possible appearance based on the historical time and place he came from. This image of Jesus doesn't bother me at all. Does it bother you?

In any case, Megyn, I think you need to ask yourself the question: Is this an image of what you would consider a "white man"? I don't know. But the ball is in your court. Is this the kind of face you have in mind when you insist so confidently that Jesus was white? This face of a Middle Eastern man, which is what, of course, Jesus was?

Your remarks were deeply disappointing, Megyn. In front of millions of viewers you let yourself get angry that people outside your narrow community want to represent Jesus or Santa as closer to their own racial group. As if these people were out to distort the truth, a truth you think you somehow own. It's this last thing that disgusts the most: that you really seem to think you own the truth.

Though I am a "white American" myself, I don't at all feel black or Asian or Latino Christians are out to distort the truth. I think you need to grow up, Megyn. You don't accept that others will represent Santa or Jesus in their own way, and yet your white community has done exactly same thing: You've represented Jesus and Santa as "white men", simply because this suits your racial preferences.

Yours Caucasianally,

Eric Mader

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Update: After a storm of criticism, Megyn Kelly now claims her remarks were "tongue-in-cheek" and that her critics are "race baiting" and willfully misunderstanding her. She claims she was trying to inject a little "humor" into the discussion. At this one must cry foul. It's clear to anyone who watches the original exchange that Kelly was was not trying to get a laugh: her tone is one of peevish annoyance, not humor. She ends the segment by trying to dismiss comments by a guest who points out, contrary to her wishes, that our images of Santa can be "inclusive". "You had to go there, didn't you?" she says.

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