12/22/2013 07:05 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2014

Justine Sacco, Megyn Kelly and the Humor of White Privilege

Megyn Kelly can get a full night's sleep on Christmas Eve and she has Justine Sacco to thank for it.

Just last week, the "politically ambiguous" FOX news reporter Megyn Kelly soaked in a bubble bath of privilege and naiveté when she proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth and Santa were both white. When the water drained from the tub, the filthy remains of Kelly's nonsensical "joke" were made evident through Twitter hashtags, response videos on YouTube, and highly popularized media outrage. This week, Justine Sacco, a *former* senior director of communications at the IAC, has bathed in the same tub of white privilege and offensiveness.

While boarding a flight to South Africa this week, the public relations executive (whose footprint of questionable tweeting has been a topic of controversy), tweeted, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"


This epically awful tweet lit Twitter ablaze within moments of its posting and has now taken some of the media focus off of Megyn Kelly, who used her FOX platform to affirm sophisticated, metropolitan 7 year olds watching "The Kelly File" that, "Santa is just is white... Santa is what he is." Kelly's comments from last week soundly contextualized a weak discussion against Aisha Harris's call for an all-inclusive Santa Claus, which was the topic for the nighttime segment.

Kelly's comments earned her a great deal of infamy, included the not-so-coveted "Donkey of the Day" award by New York based radio personality Charlamagne Tha God on Power 105.1's morning show "The Breakfast Club." Kelly's assertion to all people of color that, "Just because it (white Santa) makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too..." however, has been overshadowed by Justine Sacco and her magical shield of white privilege.

While Ms. Sacco was managed to dodge a "Donkey of the Day" award, she has been honored by the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet and the creation of a website after her namesake -- free of charge! To top it off, Scandal star Kerry Washington acknowledged the situation by saying that DC fixer Olivia Pope could not help her. Gladiators, looks like there is a case that even Olivia Pope would not touch.


Some people have come to Sacco's defense by claiming that her comments were made in the name of humor. In both the case of Sacco and Kelly, the defense of humor has been raised (See Kelly's defense here).

Neither Sacco or Kelly have ever demonstrated the comedic chops to invoke a laugh in their professions or through their respective media platforms of choice. All of a sudden, both women are comedians when there is backlash?! Not buying it for a second. But let's go along with it for a moment. Let's even play around with the unlikely notion that both Sacco and Kelly were trying to be funny.

Now, who exactly would find Sacco or Kelly funny? The couple hundred tweeters who retweeted Ms. Sacco's tasteless tweet or the millions of people whose livelihoods were unjustly reduced to a serious epidemic that is often used to stereotype and misrepresent an entire continent? The featured panelists who partook in Kelly's bizarre discussion or the millions of parents and children who must deal with lacking representations of people of color in the media?

In both hypothetical cases, Sacco and Kelly would have used humor to critique society's less-than-perfect understanding of Black experiences. However, there is one missing piece with both women: awareness and concern. Neither one of them has a track record that suggests that they are concerned about issues affecting people of color. The notion that either of them have the cultural sophistication to even think about using satire to invoke dialogue, is laughable at best. For both Sacco and Kelly, humor is really nothing more than an excuse to get off the hook for poor decisions. It's resemblance to the playground excuse, "I was just playing around," is all too familiar and unfortunately, commonplace in today's society.

Sacco and Kelly are not the only people making such comments. There are plenty of "jokesters" whose privilege(s) and prejudices can easily be "unearthed" by jokes. He's the cashier who makes a statement after a tense exchange with a customer. She's the coworker whose judgments about colleagues are disguised by passive aggressive jokes. S/he's the family member whose racist and classist jokes creates awkwardness during holiday celebrations.

Dare I say it... s/he could even be you.