Opinion: Columnists

There are worse things than not having a black Santa Claus

Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Analysis,Race and Diversity,Holidays

I wasn’t quite 4 years old when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi, was brutally lynched in that state.

So I remember few details about Till’s lynching except this one: the lengths to which my parents, aunts, uncles and other elders went to prevent my siblings and me from viewing the grotesque photos of Till as he lay in his coffin. (Till had been beaten so horribly his face was unrecognizable.)

I was a happy-go-lucky 11-year-old when, in the spring of 1963, I saw newscasts of police dogs and fire hoses being used on peaceful black demonstrators in Birmingham, Ala.

I was only a couple of months older when Medgar Evers, the NAACP field secretary for Mississippi, was assassinated.

I was fast approaching my 12th birthday on Sept. 15, 1963, when Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley lost their lives after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham. Collins, Robertson and Wesley were all 14; McNair was 11. All were black.

Whereas I had only the scant knowledge a happy-go-lucky 11-year-old had about America’s civil rights movement of that era, Southern white racists did everything in their power to keep me informed.

Almost a year after the Birmingham bombing came the 1964 Mississippi murders of civil rights workers Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

Then in 1965, white racists beat an Episcopal minister named James Reeb to death in Alabama. That same year, white racists fatally shot Viola Liuzzo as she drove civil rights marchers from Montgomery to Selma, Ala.

There was much about America’s racial scene back in the 1960s that could have traumatized me – had I let it. In addition to the incidents I’ve mentioned above, I also had to endure racial discrimination – and racism – on a personal level.

So, for the love of mercy, could somebody please explain to me what the hell Aisha Harris is complaining about?

Harris has made quite a name for herself in the past nine days. She's a blogger for the website Slate. On Dec. 10, she posted a blog with the title, “Santa Claus Should Not Be A White Man Anymore.”

Here are her reasons. And believe me, some of ‘em are lulus.

It seems that, as a girl, Harris was aware of two Santas: the white one seen mostly on television, in magazine ads and at malls and the black one whose pictures decorated her house.

“I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn’t the ‘real thing,’ ” Harris whined in her column.

Oh, there’s more.

“Two decades later,” Harris wrote (I assume she means two decades after the horror of learning her black Santa wasn’t the “real thing”), “America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?”

Before the reader can respond with a hearty, “HELL NO!” Harris answers her own question.

“Yes, it is,” Harris wrote. “And so I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa should be a penguin. ... (M)aking 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.”

In the words of that great American George “Kingfish” Stevens: now hold the phone, there, Andy.

There are millions of “nonwhite” kids that don’t have a problem with a white, old, male Santa Claus. They just enjoyed Christmas without experiencing the “insecurity and shame” that, apparently, devastated Harris.

If the greatest racial crisis in Harris’ young life was discovering that the “real” Santa Claus is white, then she should consider herself very blessed indeed.

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
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