Saturday, December 14, 2013

Megyn Kelly Blames Her White Privilege On The Black Girl

Update 4pm Sunday: Sad news. After holding this piece for 30 hours, Andrew Kirell says it's too late in the cycle to publish it, so you can only read it here. Please share it.

This piece was submitted for publication this morning, but is awaiting approval/edits. Here's a sneak peak for Tommy Xtra readers.

On Fox News' The Kelly File Friday night, host Megyn Kelly tried to explain away her emphatic insistence that Santa Claus is emphatically, undeniable, and unchangeably white by explaining that she was just agreeing with Slate's Aisha Harris that our culture depicts Santa Claus as white. Kelly also claimed she was the victim of accusations of "racism," but then proceeded to play several clips of no one accusing her of that. Kelly's commentary was an outrageous example of white privilege, and so was her defiant response to the controversy.

In her response to the controversy last night, Kelly made several claims that just don't match up with reality. She claimed that "Kicking off the light-hearted segment, I offered a tongue in cheek message for any kids watching, saying that Santa, who I joked is a real person whose race is identifiable, is white, just as Harris claimed in her piece, but that we were debating whether that should somehow change."

That's simply not true. Joking or not, Kelly was not simply outlining the debate, she was making an emphatic ruling on it, repeatedly. She had already called the premise of Harris' piece "ridiculous," and later explicitly acknowledged that she had considered Harris' argument, and again offered Santa's immutable whiteness as rebuttal. "I have given her her due on where she was going with," Kelly said, adding "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change.

"Jesus was a white man, too," Kelly continued. "He was a historical figure. That's a verifiable fact -- as is Santa. I want the kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy, of the story, and change Santa from white to black?"

Kelly seems to think she was mocked for thinking that Santa is a real person, but that's the entire point; Kelly's rigid insistence that Santa Claus just is white is only absurd because we all know he isn't a flesh-and-blood person. The debate is over the "reality" of Santa in the sense that Frank Church wrote about it, in his ability to "make glad the heart of childhood." Faced with someone whose heart is not made glad by white Santa, Kelly's response was: too bad, he just is white.

She also claimed to have been beset by charges of racism, and while that may have occurred in some other forum, none of the examples she provided included that charge, nor did anyone say her commentary was "motivated by racial fear or loathing," as Kelly also claimed. The criticism was of the commentary as an expression of white privilege.

White Privilege is not the same thing as racism, but rather, a product of racism that allows otherwise decent people to support a racist status quo by inoculating them from racism's effects, and blinding them to their own privileged immunity from them. Kelly's insistence that Santa Claus just is white is, as she pointed out in her response, the product of a dominant white culture that simply will not entertain the notion of a nonwhite Santa Claus, as Kelly herself would not.

But the ultimate expression of that white privilege is to go on television before your overwhelmingly white audience, and explain that when you told them that Santa Claus just is white, and that it was "ridiculous" to say otherwise, and that "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," you were really just agreeing with the black lady who wrote the original piece, and by the way, that black lady is a "race-baiter." Kelly used Aisha Harris as a brush in the whitewashing of her remarks.

Kelly has that privilege because there is zero risk in the proposition, and considerable reward. Fox News' audience doesn't include many people who will be alienated by any of this, and her well-promoted response will likely generate huge ratings. By doubling down, Kelly also provides fodder for more criticism, which will only draw more like-minded eyeballs to her program.

If there are people calling Megyn Kelly a racist over this, I disagree with them, but I also think Megyn Kelly ought to listen to them instead of bristling. Fox News nighttime demographics aside, Kelly ought to ask herself just which kids she was really talking to when she repeatedly assured them that Santa is white, and if she was talking to all of them, how that might have made some of them feel.

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