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Please begin with an informative title:

I haven't written in quite a while, but Megyn Kelly's uninformed, racist remarks goaded me into action, even in the middle of grading finals and papers.  Here's what I sent her:

Dear Ms. Kelly:

As a scholar with two doctorates in the field of early Christianity (specializing in the Christian East), I was appalled to hear your remarks about the presumed race of both Santa Claus and Jesus.

You correctly stated that the mythical figure of Santa Claus is based on an historical figure, St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, a city near the southern coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).  First of all, modern categories of “black” and “white” are just that – modern – whereas race was understood differently in the ancient world.  St. Nicholas was not “white” if by white you mean European.  He most certainly was not a pale-skinned, red-cheeked, obese, married man, as Santa Claus is typically portrayed in contemporary American culture.  Rather, St. Nicholas was an unmarried, ascetic (i.e., thin through fasting), Mediterranean/Middle Eastern bishop, so the notion of the contemporary Santa Claus’ being “black” is no further removed from the historical reality than his being fat, married, and “white.”

Even more disconcerting was your equally inaccurate assertion that Jesus was white.  Jesus was, of course, Jewish, and so was racially Semitic, at a time when there was very little intermarriage of Jews with non-Jews.  This means that Jesus would have had black or very dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and olive skin, with Middle Eastern facial features, including probably a large nose.  He was most certainly not a white European.  The portraits of Jesus that I have seen in Protestant churches and homes throughout the country depicting him with light brown or even blue eyes, light brown (almost blond) hair, and clearly European facial features is as historically inaccurate as any black/African Jesus.

Ironically, then, It appears that you are as concerned to make important figures such as Jesus and St. Nicholas/Santa Claus similar to your own cultural and racial identity as is Aisha Harris.  Perhaps you should be more sympathetic to her position.


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