The internets exploded in the past few days with the news story of Fox News reporter, Megyn Kelly, making an idiotic statement about Jesus and Santa both being white.
While I appreciate (former CTS President) Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s Washington Post piece on the affair, reminding us of Cone’s important point that “God is Black,” meaning that God is “with” the poor and the oppressed, I want to take this all a step further.
It seems to me that the impulse for Jesus or Santa to be understood as “white” by conservative talking heads and those who work for them is because Jesus and Santa are generally seen as gift-givers, whether giving Playstations, Furbies, candy, peace, goodwill, salvation. These things are all best when they are products of American exceptionlaistic capitalism: handed out by white folks out of a sense of charity or no-strings-attached presents, yet arrive with the hope of complicit discipleship. Here is an underlying hint of support for a welfare state, but with a Zwinglian move: the welfare state that exists, headed by a black President, is always broken and imperfect in comparison to a utopian one where welfare is dispensed liberally just for the shits and giggles of it all! All of those “ho, ho, ho’s” aren’t just verbal, you know.
The internet discourse has been predictable. “Have you seen any Jews lately,” asks one commentor to Thislewaite’s essay, “they sure look white to me!” “Would God approve of the Redskins?”, etc.
Kelly’s response to the backlash concludes that the race of Jesus is “far from settled,” and continued into a classic victimization scheme: ‘I’ am the target of racism, as is “the powerful Fox News channel”—which almost sounds like a threat—and, by default, Fox News consumers.
What is simultaneously obfuscated and uncovered by Ms. Kelley’s retort is not necessarily the ridiculousness of any “historical” account of the race of Jesus or Santa Claus, along with the long history of racially appropriating Jesus as universal logos, but rather, what, again, is the meaning of the “whiteness” being employed.
This “whiteness” is like American sub-statehood: once whiteness is extended, or gifted, upon an individual, it can’t be taken back when convenient for liberals, historians, or theologians. In fact, if you do take it back, them’s fightin’ words. This non-revocability of whiteness continues to be manifest in our popular news by the case of George Zimmerman, who, before and during his trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, was constantly referred to as a “white Hispanic,” and became a symbol of any white dude who might be threatened by candy-toting seventeen-year-old black kids. Through that ordeal, whiteness was conferred upon Mitt Romney and Mormons at the Republican National Convention in 2012, complete with a blackface theater performance by Clint Eastwood.
If the whiteness of Santa or Jesus were to be revoked, its whole ponzi scheme would fall apart. As another Fox News commentator, Gretchen Carlson, lamented, how is it even possible to drive around and find a public nativity scene anymore when there are Festivus poles around? Thus, on one hand, the neighborhood may have become gentrified to the point that the local nativities are now unrecognizable from the Porsche SUV dashboard, but yet on the other, the offense of Jesus and Santa perhaps no longer claiming and owning their whiteness is that Empire and Christendom have made a deal, and with the Pope bashing capitalism and all, perhaps it’s time for whiteness to reconsider its policy.