Maybe it was the very fact of enjoying a wonderful Christmas with my family and friends, against the manufactured backlash to a nonexistent “War on Christmas,” that let me appreciate the perilous mental state of a small but noisy and paranoid swath of White America. Somehow over the holiday it became clear: 2013 was the year White grievance mongering became an uglier and even more lucrative racket.
Fox News has been peddling the phony “War on Christmas” for years, of course, but it took new Fox phenom Megyn Kelly to give it an explicitly racial cast. Not only did Kelly wage war against the menace of a Black Santa – declaring nonsensically that the fictional character of Santa Claus “just is White” – but when she was called on it, she made herself out to be the victim of politically correct bullies, race-baiters and Fox haters. Suddenly it was clear: The imagined war on Christmas has become an equally farcical war on Whiteness in the minds of those sad right-wing warriors.
The next week, “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson also became a martyr for the White right, after A&E briefly suspended him for holding forth on the nastiness of gay sex while insisting African Americans were happy in the Jim Crow South. The new hysteria and hypocrisy was crystallized by one surreal fact: While paranoid White righties were fighting for their allegedly endangered right to celebrate Christmas (with their White Santa), they could watch a “Duck Dynasty” Christmas marathon on A&E, underscoring that there’s neither a war on Christmas nor on bigoted pseudo-Christians like Robertson. But there’s a lot of cash to be made, and fear to be stoked, by claiming both.
Kelly and Robertson and kindred spirits like Sarah Palin charted a bold new civil rights frontier in 2013: fighting for the right of White people to say false, stupid and bigoted things without facing criticism, let alone paying any real penalty. Palin has long made herself out to be a victim of mean liberals, but this year her anger-mongering took on a more explicitly racial tinge. She bashed Jeb Bush for casting aspersions on the fertility of White people — Bush did make an admittedly stupid remark about immigrants being “more fertile,” but if you thought that would get him in trouble with immigrant groups, not Whites, you thought wrong – and later in the year declared her inviolable right to equate the federal deficit she wrongly blames on our first black president with “slavery.” She closed the year announcing she stands with Phil Robertson, even though she had to confess to Fox’s Greta Van Susteren that she hadn’t read the GQ interview that got him in minor temporary trouble.
2013 was also the year that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of an unarmed Black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, allegedly in self-defense, becoming a cultural hero to some of that same paranoid White right. If you have the misfortune of stumbling into the Twitter sewer that is TheRealGeorgeZ’s timeline, you’ll find an exaggerated sense of White grievance (please spare me the insistence that Zimmerman is Latino; he has seemed uninterested in identifying as such, at least publicly, and in any case his Latino heritage wouldn’t necessarily erase his Whiteness).