Know what else is racist? ‘Jingle Bells’

Know what else is racist? ‘Jingle Bells’
Kyna Hammel (Image: Boston University)

Maybe it’s an innocent mistake. Maybe Boston University theater professor Kyna Hamill misheard the lyric as “one-horse open slave.”

Or maybe Kyna Hamill is just kina nuts.

Hamill claims that the classic Christmas song “Jingle Bells” has a “problematic history” because it was originally performed to poke fun at black people.

In a paper published by Cambridge University Press (via Fox News) , she writes:

The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is one where its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history.

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 insists the music and lyrics betray traces of the song’s “blackface minstrel origins,” writing:

… [T]he first documented performance of the song is in a blackface minstrel hall in Boston in 1857, the same year it was copyrighted.

It sure sounds to me like she’s putting the one-horse sleigh before the bobtailed bay.

Others on Twitter were similarly bemused:

BU’s official photo of Hamill shows her with her arm around what appears to be a broomstick. That should tell you all you need to know.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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