Why is that Santa Black?

A small anecdote about race…

 

I work for a small branch in a huge, urban public library system.  Last Christmas the supervisor for the libraries in this area gave our branch a present….a plastic Santa face to put up as decoration.  Earlier this week, a kindergarten class came to the library for their regular visit.  One kid, very smart but sometimes irritating because he loves attention a little too much, asked, “Why is that Santa black?” 

 

The child was African-American as are most of the libraries patrons…..In fact, I’d say that 80-95% of the people who use this neighborhood library are African-American.  Out of a class of 22 kids, maybe 1 will be Caucasian. 

 

Anyway, the question took me aback.  The class was on its way out the door and I was a little flustered so the best I could come up with was to say, “Why not?  Why shouldn’t the Santa be black?”  I was also curious as to why he thought Santa’s must be white.  I guess he always saw Santa represented as white.  If I had more time perhaps I would have said something like, “Santa represents generosity and hospitality.  Santa never really existed, but everyone can be like Santa by being generous, hospitable, and cheerful.”  I also didn’t want to be the one to break it to him that Santa doesn’t exist. 

 

What would you have said to a six year old asking, “Why is that Santa black?”

What does this say about India and the U.S.?  For me, it was a reminder that kids notice everything.  When Satya and I have a child, we will have to make some conscious decisions about what we show our child.  Will we have a white Santa or a brown Santa?  I don’t know.  St. Nicholas was from Turkey so if we want to be historically accurate a brown Santa would be best.  On the other hand, my Caucasian family is the one that celebrates Christmas, not his Indian one.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. honeybeeluvsjackfruit
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 06:38:41

    Kids are so blunt. Im sure it is striking to see a black santa because we are so used to the white image. Maybe someday it will be like Barbie… she was once blonde and blue eyed, but now they have all types. On the other hand, what is so bad in having one Santa and if he happens to be white?
    I guess Im opposed to the whole notion of Santa, so what can I say? Too much thinking for this time of night, eheheh.

    I wanted to let you know you have been tagged 🙂 And also, happy new year Minnie 🙂

    Thanks! Happy New Year to you too!

    Nothing is so bad about having a white Santa too. At the library it was an effort to be sensitive to the neighborhood. In a white neighborhood, there’d be a white Santa.

    The main danger is in kids thinking they are excluded because they don’t see themselves reflected in society.

    Reply

  2. honeybeeluvsjackfruit
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 06:39:42

    Reply

  3. La Vida Loca
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:42:14

    Time for a new post yes?

    Very true…..Same old excuses-life has been busy, winter doldrums, etc.

    Reply

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