Dear Traditional Racist White Parents,
You had a hard week, huh? I understand, you’re just out here trying to get into the Christmas spirit by buying rope and white sheets to decorate your tree if you’re old-fashioned or hair pomade and a Mother Jones subscription if you’re alt right edgy and then you see that the Mall of America has the gall, the audacity, the ovaries to hire a black Santa. What is this bullshit, you wonder.
Here’s the thing, you should have a seat – perhaps a very comfy one on #SantaLarry’s lap – and think about this more before you continue embarrassing yourself.
Let’s, for now, ignore the historical roots of the St. Nick/ Santa character (because I know that ignoring facts is a pastime of yours and I want you to be comfortable) and focus on the holiday you claim to love.
First, let me admit that I might be biased, I’m both a PoC and a parent who has never told their kids that Santa was a real person.
That first part is pretty self-explanatory, but let’s get into it anyway. I identify as black which is to say that I am identified as and interacted with as black (even while benefiting from colorism). Because PoCs in general, and black people in particular, are not regularly represented in media mainstream American culture, I am disproportionately excited to see someone – anyone – who looks like me in that kind of role.
I love this shirt. I love the idea of a black Wonder Woman. Seeing the same white image over and over reinforces the idea of white as normal and anything else as defective in its non-whiteness. Through this dogged insistence and repetition, PoCs become a kind of Aristotelian “deformed” white. Now, let’s think about the kids, the black and brown kids, who grow up with this repetition. We already know that representation is important. We already know that the images children see provide, to some extent, a map of opportunity and options. While I doubt any kids are going to grow up to be the actual Santa Clause because he’s not real (more on this in a second), it’s still important that they have an opportunity to engage with cultural icons that reflect the families that produced them. Santa Larry said in an interview that he was at a Santa conference with approximately a thousand Santas in attendance and he was the only Santa of color. Let that sink in.
Are you threatening to boycott (or sympathizing with those who are) a mall for hiring its first Black Santa when he is so vastly outnumbered that your racial stranglehold on the imaginary jolly old man gig is not in any danger? This can’t be about one man in one mall. So what is it about, then? Are you afraid your kid might get near to a black man and not be frightened? Are you worried that little black and brown kids might get comfortable and think of this American version of Santa as theirs, as a part of their culture? Are you worried that your culture and their culture are actually one thing: our American culture? Don’t worry, having a black Santa doesn’t mean me and mine are coming over to your house to force seasoning onto your chicken.
Let’s get back into that whole Santa isn’t fucking real thing. My kids are young enough to be in mid Santa-Please-I’ve-Been-Good-Bring-Me-Stuff hype, but they’re not, because I told them that Santa wasn’t real. Why? Besides the impossibility of one man and 8 overworked reindeer traipsing across the globe in one night to deliver presents, I don’t think it’s a useful lie in my house.
Instead, I told them that Santa is a kind of mascot. He represents the spirit of Christmas. We talked about how having pictures of him around and visiting with people who are pretending to be him 1) is fun, and 2) reminds us to be kind and giving. We’ve been shopping and seen white (of course) Santas, Black Santas, Asian Santas, and Hispanic Santas. They never bat an eye. I like to think it’s because I haven’t taught them to be super invested in the person pretending to be Santa as much as in why the person is playing dress-up – hint: it has to be with goodwill towards all.
Because George Takei is often perfection boiled down into tweets, he said it best when he tweeted:
Watching people meltdown over a Black Santa in the Mall of America. “Santa is white!” Well, in our internment camp he was Asian. So there. — George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 3, 2016
Santa is who we need him to be: kind, generous, an invitation to reflect on what we’ve done and what we think we deserve, and sometimes Asian. Sometimes Black.
At this point, I think you [looks directly at white people] need Santa to be Black more than I do. I already know I’m human. I already know that me and mine aren’t a threat to your Christmas. I already know that if Santa, a fictional character, were real you racist ass trolls would be getting coal. But knowing you, you’d crush it, mix it with water, and have your blackface mix ready for next Halloween.