Zucker: When life imitates art
Special to the Tribune
With hard news out of Washington grinding down for the holidays, the season’s big story arguably came from Fox News, courtesy of Megyn Kelly’s lecture about Santa Claus’ color. Throw in her parallel comments about Jesus and you’ll know what the fuss was all about.
I mean, this is really important stuff!
Kelly led a discussion that bemoaned Slate blogger Aisha Harris’ tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Santa Claus not be a white man anymore, but instead be a penguin and let “the universally beloved waddling bird warm the hearts of children everywhere, regardless of the color of their skin.”
“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” insisted Kelly. “… But … Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”
During the 1970s, the multiple award winning series “All in the Family” frequently focused on racial and ethnic bigotry; their treatment, albeit realistic, was generally light-hearted and often subtle.
In a perfect illustration of life imitating art, Kelly repeated almost word-for-word what Archie Bunker, the iconic bigoted character played by Carroll O’Connor in that legendary series, argued to Henry Jefferson, the brother of Archie’s next door neighbors George and Louise Jefferson. You see, the Jeffersons were black, the Bunkers white. During the series’ 1973 Christmas show, Henry Jefferson appeared at the Bunkers’ front door, sporting a fake black beard and a Santa cap. Here’s their exchange:
ARCHIE: Who are you?
HENRY: It’s me – Jefferson.
(After a brief interlude, dialogue resumes.)
ARCHIE: So you’re supposed to be Santy Claus, are ya’?
HENRY: Ho, ho, ho!
ARCHIE: You look more like a rabbi to me!
After Louise advised that Henry was playing Santa at the youth center, Archie admonished Henry:
ARCHIE: If you’re gonna play Santa Claus, you know Santa Claus was white and so was his beard …
HENRY: That’s ridiculous, I’d look silly with a white beard. Who said Santa Claus was white?… Let me tell you something, Bunker, when I was a kid on Christmas Eve, the guy that used to fill my stocking was black!
But Megyn Kelly’s racial descriptions went beyond Santa. Continuing, she insisted, “Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure and that’s verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.”
In a separate “All in the Family” episode, Henry Jefferson and Archie Bunker got into that one, too, arguing over the race of God and Jesus.
ARCHIE: … God is white, ain’t he?
HENRY: What makes you think God isn’t black?
ARCHIE: Well, because I was made in God’s image and you’ll note that I ain’t black.
HENRY: Well, don’t complain to me about it!
ARCHIE: I ain’t complaining about nothin’. I just mean all the pictures you ever see of God, he’s white …
HENRY: Well, maybe you were looking at the negative!
ARCHIE: Let’s try to talk intelligent. Now if God was black as you say, then his son would also have to be black. You ain’t going to tell me that Jesus was black?
HENRY: Well, now you’re catchin’ on. They already proved that Jesus was an Ethiopian.
ARCHIE: … Whatever he was, he was never black.
Days later, Kelly claimed that she had joked in saying Santa was white and acknowledged that she erred when it came to Jesus’ whiteness: “I also did say Jesus was white; as I’ve learned in the past two days, that is far from settled.” But dripping with self-serving sarcasm, she excoriated many news people, late night comics and ordinary citizens who had field days with her original remarks; she called that a “knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst of people, especially the people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel.” Yet it’s hard to watch these actual Kelly videos without concluding that those remarks were coldly serious.
Kelly added, “Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.” Right, especially when it’s not funny! Surely her retort is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Megyn, relax, don’t take it so seriously. Your silly anguish about the color of Santa and/or Jesus is fodder for a little ridicule. Actually, we’ve been bringing color into the holidays for decades now, ever since Irving Berlin had us dreaming of a “White Christmas” and Stan Freberg spoofed the season’s commercialism with his classic “Green Christmas” record.
OK, Megyn and Fox: yule report, we’ll decide.
— Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities. The views expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent those of Regal.