At FOX News, talking head Megyn Kelly has boldly proclaimed that Santa is white, apparently meaning he is an imaginary being of Northern European descent. For good measure, she added that Jesus is white, too.
Now, boldly proclaiming a racial heritage for a nonexistent person is just being argumentative for the sake of it. It's like the old question of a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear it, and whether that tree makes a sound when it crashes down. This is manifestly a species-centric argument, because if a tree falls in the forest it must create certain vibrations that non-humans, like the squirrels sitting in it, perceive as sound. I think it is safe to say they are also noticed as noise by slow-moving creatures about to be crushed by that tree.
So Megyn was spoiling for a fight and she got it, but this column takes pride in its dispassionate approach to controversy and its dedication to hard facts, so let's examine the racial backgrounds of other mythical creatures for clues to the color of Santa:
The Easter Bunny is generally portrayed as a white bunny in pictures, but in boxed form this rabbit is usually chocolate. There's not much of an argument for either side here.
Is the Tooth Fairy black or white? Frankly, we don't even know if the Tooth Fairy is a he or a she, or even an androgynous winged philanthropist. In any case, this magical being is a fairy, not a person. We humans generally don't care about the colors of non-humans. We breed our pets and livestock in all kinds of color variations, just to amuse ourselves. Even people who are keenly concerned with the color of their neighbor don't care much about the color of their neighbor's dog. I think most of us are comfortable with a tiny being that sneaks into our houses at night to leave money under our children's pillows being any color it happens to be.
What about Santa's elves? Again, these tiny toymakers are not generally thought to be human, therefore their race doesn't matter, although I am sure FOX News wouldn't mind if some of them were depicted as black, especially the ones that picked candy canes in the candy cane fields around the North Pole or played running back in the Arctic's most popular professional sports league, the N-Elf-L.
Mrs. Santa? Not nearly as hounded by the Christmas-card painting paparazzi as the Mister, so much more rarely portrayed. She could easily be black. I mean it takes a strong woman to keep her man going out to his workshop every day and to insist that he complete his world-wide delivery schedule in one night, so he doesn't have time to be out fooling around. Mrs. Santa must also be able to make quick, instinctive decisions on cases of goodness vs. badness. Many black women I know have these qualities.
But Santa himself, an omniscient being who watches over us all constantly, rewards the nice and punishes the naughty, usually according to the standards set by our parents, is a convenient myth for this happy time of year. His race hardly matters, for in his season he brings to those who truly believe in him an urgent if somewhat temporary urge to do good and make peace.
And you could certainly say the same about Jesus.