I'm sure by now you've heard about a few recent stories where Black Santa has come into question. First, Aisha Harris' blog post about the need to diversify our vision of Santa followed by a rather unintelligent and disturbing response by Fox News, concluding, that both Santa and Jesus are historically, factually White. Then there was the Black high school student who dressed as Santa. The response from one of his teachers? The student shouldn't dress as Santa, because Santa is supposed to be White.
I'm bothered by the assumption that Santa is/was/should be White for so many reasons.
#1: My kids are Black. Don't dismiss my children's need and desire to see and admire people who look like them. Baby E, who just turned 3, is excited to see others who share her skin-tone. She'll explain, "Mommy, she's brown like me!" And it doesn't matter to her if the fellow brown-person is an actual human or book or movie character or a doll.
And being the only child of color in a situation is noticed by my children. And it's noticed by me, too. You know, like the classic navtivity scene where everyone is White except the one Wise Man and sometimes, just for kicks, creators will throw in an Asian. Diversity, baby. Eye roll.
#2: Racism is learned. Telling kids that Santa MUST BE White is racist; it clearly conveys a discomfort with a popular figure, like Santa, being represented as a person of color. Don't tell me it's about "historical facts." Most people I know aren't expert historians...and if they were, they wouldn't cling to White Jesus paintings like they are gospel. Sorry Megyn Kelly, Jesus wasn't a White guy. Please, don't pile more colorism on our children's heads. There's plenty of that garbage.
(My daughter's Sunday School art project, where she colored baby Jesus' skin brown).
#3: Color matters. I've never heard a person of color say that "color doesn't matter" or "kids don't notice race." But I've sure heard plenty of White people say it. Because some Whites want to believe that the world is colorblind. But any person of color (or, transracial families like mine) knows that color matters. It matters in if a missing child case will receive national media attention. Or not. It matters in something as simple as the color of bandages and dance recital tights. (Ahem: "skin tone" = peachy.) It matters in hiring practices. (How "ethnic" is the name on the resume?) I can't think of an area of life where color isn't a factor. Why are White people demanding that Santa be White? Because they want to suppress the oppressed by making sure "White is right."
#4: The media---well, you kind of suck. You glorify people who look like my children when they are athletes or singers. You praise them when they are sidekicks in movies to White heroes. And you capitalize on their hardships when they are prisoners, criminals, orphans, and welfare-recipients (and in fact, you almost always use a person of color to represent people who fall into these categories). But when it comes to successful, professional Blacks, you criticize, you mock, you ignore. Because a successful Black person makes you really uncomfortable---even when that glorified figure is IMAGINARY. But guess what? There's no need for hierarchy here. Black and White Santa (or any other race) an co-exist. In fact, I asked my five-year-old the other day,"What color is Santa?" She said, "Mom, he can be pink or brown."
(a few favorite Christmas ornaments)
Listen. Five-ish years ago. I was a White woman living a happy White life. Santa was White. Jesus was White. The President was White. I was never followed by a cop in a mall or while I was driving down the road. No one asked me to verify the signature on my credit card by showing my ID. I blended in everywhere I went. I was also taken at my word, always believed and trusted, because I'm a clean-cut White chick.
But things changed, radically and instantaneously, when our first child was born: a tiny Black girl with a 'fro of dark, kinky hair. Then another baby girl arrived. Then a baby boy. And when we go somewhere, we are the minority-minority. Minority #1: White couple (minority within the fam) with three Black kids---who screams ADOPTION and TRANSRACIAL by appearance alone. Minority #2: People of color in a White world, even when we are amongst a majority of other people of color....because Whiteness still prevails and is preferred and is perpetuated.
The election of President Obama, the honoring of Nelson Mandela, the successes of Oprah and Beyonce, the shrieks of joy over the popularity of Princess Tiana and Doc McStuffins, the raving reviews for films like The Help and The Butler...these are simply glimpses of hope. They are not indicators of drastic, permanent change, colorblindness, justice, or freedom from racial barriers.
So yeah, this Black Santa debate, it's a big deal to me. Because it's not about Black Santa. It's about White people insisting that things remain as they always have been.
I'm not forcing our Black Santa onto you and your tots. It's about inclusion. It's about options. It's about imagination. It's about opportunity.
And for you, White person who believes Santa HAS to be White, it's about your heart.