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Boston University Professor Calls ‘Jingle Bells’ Racist
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Jingle Bells

Summary: A Boston University professor of theater believes the Christmas carol “Jingle Bells” is rooted in racism.

This is not the first time someone has attacked a Christmas carol or tradition as being racist. A Boston University professor claims that the carol “Jingle Bells” has a “problematic history.” As one of the most common Christmas carols in the world, singers probably never knew where the song originated.

  
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BU theater historian Kyna Hamill explains the history of the song as a one written and performed to make fun of African Americans. As she wrote in her research paper two years ago, “The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is one where its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history.”

She continued, “Although ‘One Horse Open Sleigh,’ for most of its singers and listeners, may have eluded its racialized past and taken its place in the seemingly unproblematic romanticization of a normal ‘white’ Christmas, attention to the circumstances of its performance history enables reflection on its problematic role in the construction of blackness and whiteness in the United States.”

Hamill looked into the history of the song when Medford, Massachusetts and Savannah, Georgia went to battle over which town was the actual birthplace of the song written by James Pierpont. She wrote, “Its origins emerged from the economic needs of a perpetually unsuccessful man, the racial politics of antebellum Boston, the city’s climate, and the intertheatrical repertoire of commercial blackface performers moving between Boston and New York.”

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She references lines from the song like “Miss Fanny Bright” and “dashing through the snow,” which she believes are direct references to slavery. The “first documented performance of the song was in a blackface minstrel hall in Boston in 1857, the same year it was copyrighted,” Hamill told Fox News. Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment that mocked mostly people of African descent back in the later parts of the 1800s.

Now that the paper is circulating again on Twitter, being that it is Christmastime, people are calling it a “liberal overreach.” One Twitter wrote, “Jingles Bellis is racist, White Christmas is racist, Baby it’s Cold Outside is sexist. What the hell happened to the American I grew up in where people didn’t wake up every day trying to find something to be offended by?”



Another Twitter user said, “Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh! It’s not racist. That professor is an idiot. The actors had black face because in the time, blacks weren’t allowed to act. Because they sang it, doesn’t make it racist.”

Just two years ago, students at George Mason College agreed to ban the jingle “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” because of its racism. A form was presented to students claiming the song “perpetuates the idea that white is naturally good, and that the other colours are bad” because it insulted “people of colour.” The person presenting the form also complained about how the song “doesn’t mention anything about climate change.” Somehow, the man was able to convince the students to ban the song.

According to History.com, Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from outer space in 1965.

Do you think the song is racist? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To read about other claims of racism, see these articles:

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net



 

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