Black Santa: Racist to Keep St. Nick White?

A recent L.A. Times article described a celebrated Black Santa Claus, “the main attraction…at a mall…in the heart of black Los Angeles.” People actually first call “to make sure he will be there” before they head out on what is for some an hour’s drive.

The historical St. Nicholas was actually a wealthy Greek orphan born in Asia minor during the third century who grew up to become a bishop. He was supposed to have tossed gold coins anonymously down a chimney so three poor downtrodden sisters could get married. He became known for his charity and evolved into a synthesis of the Dutch legend, the German Sinterklaas, and the British Father Christmas. So Santa as we know him is a European of multicultural blood who started out as a Christian from the Mediterranean, neither white nor black but olive.

Santa does not play a part in my family’s Christmas celebration but the questions I pose are about something more than belief in him. The International University of Santa Claus based in L.A. has had three pupils among the 2,200+ Santas it has trained nationwide. Part of the difficulty lies in finding men who make a good match in charisma and physical features. Is affirmative action called for? Keeping Santa white would translate into preserving the status quo by hiring men on the basis of their skin color. Or do we lose something of the magic of tradition to diversify this legendary model? I feel we would, depicting Santa as a Korean man. Which brings us back to the black question.

When kids first sight Santa, say at the mall or on TV, are they getting a lesson that to have mythical powers of access into minds and homes, you have to be white? Nick’s a superstar. It meant a great deal to the African-American community to visit with a black Santa at the mall. “I just don’t want him [her godson] to think that all greatness comes from a different race,” said one shopper. Greatness is a weighty word. Should an Asian child, then, be given the chance to see himself, that is, “his own people” in such an iconic role? I wonder: when I explained to my then four-year-old who the Santa Claus he’d heard about was said to be, did he imagine a Korean grandfather figure with superpowers? If my boy did, it would imply an emotional need on his part to keep heroes close to home, to extend them naturally to the prototype of the person in the mirror and the people he lived with. Until every book, poster, movie replaced that picture with a white man who wields godlike faculties of omniscience and a modified form of omnipresence. Interestingly, my husband remembers from South Korea in the 70s that Santa was American. Today, kids in Korea know Santa is “in actuality” white and understand that the Korean Santas they see are imitation. The children don’t hold to as strong a belief in him as many do in America. Rather than help kids feel closer to the myth for seeing themselves, the Korean Santa models may be strengthening the sense of artificiality behind the famed figure. I’m not sure an Asian Santa would have the same effect on my son growing up where his ethnicity does not comprise the majority.

Now, I wonder what it does for kids who are not black, white childrenย especially, to see a dark Santa. Will it confuse? After all, Santa is…well, the Santa. It is no fault of any people group that he gained worldwide popularity as a European. What if we want to – and ought we not – preserve the heritage that produced this celebrated figure from a certain geography and culture in time? Are we forcing cosmetic skin surgery on those who have achieved fame on their racial terms? It’s one thing to draw out Pocahontas and Mulan from the shadows into the global limelight. But insisting that Snow White be Snow Black is another. If we were to protest a monochrome representation of St. Nick, we should also be doing so on book and movie platforms. And how about Superman?

Should we leave Santa alone?

I am not arguing against Black Santas. I’m not speaking out of conviction but thinking aloud. Your thoughts, please. Floor’s all yours.

170 thoughts on “Black Santa: Racist to Keep St. Nick White?

  1. As you know there is no one answer to these questions. There are some things where people just have to work out the answers for themselves without someone imposing a solution. No doubt where the catchment area is predominantly black the shopping mall will hire a black Santa and where it is predominantly white they will hire a white Santa. That’s the beauty of a free society.

  2. It never occurred to me that Santa Claus had to be white. I suppose all the mall Santas were white when I was a child, but I certainly saw pictures and figurines of black Santa Clauses and my unreflective assumption about Santa derived from childhood Santas is that he can be of any race. Santa has to be jolly–not white.

  3. Actually, it ‘s become a big discussion at the dinner table. Our verdict : Talks like these will not advance the cause of African Americans. * facepalm* It’s like everything has now boiled down to race. I’m now waiting for someone to complain why Jesus is always depicted as ” Caucasian”. PS In japan, Santas are Japanese. In the Philippines, the guys who don Santa outfits are Filipinos. Who’s complaining? * shakes head*

    • Sounds like I’m missing some cool dinner talk over there, RNK. Glad you were exasperated enough to pipe in. That’s what I was getting at, that on one side of this it would get out of hand. On the other, no one was really complaining but as I said to Thomas here, how much it meant to the mall shoppers in the article reveals an unspoken hunger for affirmation. That’s interesting that in many parts of Asia the Santas are Asian. Since Santa was white in Korea, at least a few decades back, I wonder if the Japanese kids believe the “real” Santa is American and accept the Japanese Santas as imitations, or if they actually believe Santa is Japanese.

    • i’m smiling writing this, not complaining. but in fact, the historical jesus would have been olive skinned, too, not a blue eyed caucasian. it s interesting to see how cultural heros get given the face of the majoriy, or of the power elite, in every time.
      weirder than that, to me, is how santa has been presented to us as neutral. in this time when people avoid the word ‘christmas’ in order to seem inclusive (not a bad thing, at all, to admit other faiths and traditions celebrate at the winter solistice), it is ironic at bst that santa – firmly rooted in christian culture and history, based upon a bishop of the christian church – is somehow okay, when christ himself is offensive.
      just flippin’ weird!

  4. A novelty is always a come-on for shoppers. Let’s face it, it’s a mall where the black Santa would appear. The operators are more concerned with raking money than authenticity.

    • Agreed, Belsbror. Mix human penchant for greed and the opportunities of commercialism, and the novelty’s a smart move. But my questions probe fairness on behalf of the shopper, and more importantly, the children (who don’t do the spending) as well as the concept of tradition and what it means to keep it intact. Glad to hear from you – beyond the faithful likes. =)

      • I’ve been around. ๐Ÿ™‚
        Traditions are made to be broken, according to profit margins.That’s the problem with companies’ commercialism, they do not give a whit about realism. With the parents, I think they would go for what society dictates upon them. What is politically correct and all that ‘harmony’ thing would sway their opinions. Children will be children, They would take the situation and have fun. Later, the problem will be their inquisitive questions that everyone should have thought of and anticipated in the first place.
        This whole episode is like picking up a rock and striking one’s head. Naughty but not nice.
        Blessings,
        belsbror

  5. Hi Diana, A thoughtful and provocative post. I agree with Malcolm that there is no one answer. And I would tend to argue for a white Santa, especially as a white of European decent, and believing that ‘white’ is his historical, racial and cultural origin. Maybe we go too far trying to please everyone? If someone doesn’t like Santa being white, they can find/ create a better figure and tradition to follow. That being said, the main point of Santa seems to be the spirit of giving which is universal and may explain his popularity. Truthfully, I wish we, as a society, would scale back from the whole Santa and gift oriented celebrations to celebrating with shared experiences that aren’t tied to consumerism.

    And Happy Holidays to you and your readers however they celebrate!

    • Absolutely agree on our misplaced values in Santa, Brad Writing to Freedom. But since it is what it is, I felt the questions needed to be aired. Glad to hear you stake a position. “Maybe we go too far trying to please everyone?” Right, this is what I was getting at. Because if we pushed off from the historically white culture of the tradition for a modification of the icon, logic asks where we’re going to stop, when so many of our children’s idols are white. It’s one thing to adopt a tradition from another culture but then to insist on changing it to suit one’s own is to tamper with its meaning. At the same time, it’s a free society, as Malcolm said, and “subcultures” certainly have the right to adapt what they wish.

      • But that’s the whole point. Just accepting that childhood idols are all white is NOT the place to stop. We need to reflect all of ourselves and our children to inspire and empassion them/us to be heroes/sheras in our own very diverse lives. Get it?!

  6. Thanks for this blog post. It was thought provoking. I am a British Citizen of Caribean decent. So I have lived in a majority white culture all my life. However I have also lived in a culture that portrayed negative stereotypes of people that looked like me. So I grew up with an unspoken desire to identify myself with positive male, successful, black figures. As I have gotten older I have realised that not all people of color in the world have the same need. For example I met a guy from Tanzania at Uni, we roomed together. He had come from a relatively privileged background. He had grown up seeing black people as Doctors, Crimials, Educated, uneducated, funny, geeky etc. For him he Tanzanian not Black. Not that he was ashamed of his race or anything he was just largely unconscious of it. My point is that in Tanzania they have Tanzanian Santas, in Korea (spent 2 years there from 04-06) the Korean Santas, in America they have American Santas, in the UK they have British Santas. The challenge we have is not so much with Santa but with a society that is still partially segregated in its mind. Where not everyone who is a citizen truly feel like they belong. As Orson Wells put it in Animal Farm ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’.

    • Glad to hear from you, JB. Your bio is fascinating. Your former roommate’s lack of need to be sensitive to his race is so interesting. To unpack that would be a whole other post. =) (In fact, I’m spilling the beans but sounds like you’ll want to participate in a collaborative project I will be opening up in about three months. Your cultural experiences would fit that project on race perfectly. Just keep an eye out.) I also would love to know what you thought of Korea, as I have never gone back since leaving at four and have no memory of the place. Well, in Korea, they apparently embrace the American Santa, understanding that any Korean man who dons a suit is most certainly an imitation.

      “The challenge we have is not so much with Santa but with a society that is still partially segregated in its mind. Where not everyone who is a citizen truly feel like they belong. As Orson Wells put it in Animal Farm โ€˜All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

      Exactly. Which is why the mall visitors were enthralled as they were to feel themselves affirmed in the iconic role of Santa.

      Btw, I referred to your comment in my response to Thomas Ford.

  7. Personally, I’ll take a white Santa mainly because of it’s originality not racial superiority. But I’m Nigerian. And we rock it the Nigerian way. It’s the myth not the person.

  8. For us as children, the mall Santa’s weren’t the real Santa’s. They were his helpers. Think I had asked Mom how he could be at different malls at the same time, so she had to think up some reply.

    Don’t ever recall race being an issue.

  9. I think it’s maybe more important to bring out and grant status and fame to fantastical figures from black, Asian, Jewish, gay, disabled, etc. legends and stories. Goodness, there are enough of them around.

    I really appreciate your thinking aloud. Thank you!

      • agree we need more exposure to heroines of all cultures. take exception and roll my eyes that pocahontas is so misrepresented, so reduced to a hypersexual creature, really nothing much more than another iteration of the mythical noble savage. historically, apparently not the case at all.

      • Get this: my son just caught a preview of the Muppets’ Wizard of Oz on dvd…and Dorothy is black. Starring Ashanti. I don’t have a problem with it. But this is his first literal glimpse of Dorothy – I don’t think he remembers seeing the movie at the dr’s before he got into the book on audio. I wonder what went through his mind just now. There’s also the ques, of course, of our changing the “classic” tale as Baum had written and seen it in his head. (I don’t quite recall if he ever spells out her color but by the description and the context of a relatively very white Kansas, she’s not black.)

    • Well Ted, it is because it’s not about belief in a fat guy, as I said, but the deeper matters this Santa affords a look at: the definition of tradition, how far we can go in meddling with it, the question of how relevant or intrinsic race is to icons, and how minority cultures respond to them. What was telling was the reaction of the shoppers in the L.A. mall, how much Black Santa meant to them.

  10. I believe the real Saint Nicholas originated from Turkey or something, which means he would probably be neither black nor white. But, at the end of the day, Santa Claus/Father Christmas is for children, so as long as they don’t have a problem with his colour, why should anyone else?

    • Yes, Thomas. I didn’t spell out Turkey but Mediterranean in Asia Minor was another descriptor. He himself was Greek. Exactly, he was his own color, so to speak, but I pursued the inquiry as I did because it was the European evolution of this Nicholas that the world came to embrace.

      The really interesting question is what Jonathan Burnett brought up, the un/consciousness of race. I don’t believe children have an issue. I don’t believe many of the L.A. shoppers did — until they saw HIM. The deep-hearted response says a lot about the affirmation they drew and by implication had felt missing up until that moment.

  11. Maybe Santa should just be put to sleep and the children should be taught that their parents bought them gifts out of love in honor of Jesus . . . or Buddha . . . or Allah . . . or Mother nature . . . or. . . .

    Then every child as well as every deity would get a gift

  12. Very thought-provoking–thank you, Diana. For me, it’s the spirit represented by Santa Claus that counts, the embodiment of generosity, magic, joy and love. And that embodiment comes in all colors. Peace….

  13. I’m always amazed at the way Americans make a big issue out of non-issues. For us who came from the developing world – I was born in the Caribbean and lived in Brazil for 16 years – Santa Claus was an imported Western character, together with Christmas trees and artificial snow.

    In Guyana and Brazil, Santa is always a person from the local community, workplace or family. What’s important is that the person playing the role of Santa, of whatever race or color, loves children and has a happy and friendly disposition.

    • Not sure whom you are referring to, exactly, RB: “the way Americans make a big issue out of non-issues.” As I said in several comments here, no one was making a ruckus or picketing for Black Santas but the extent to which black shoppers were touched at the mall reveals a subconscious need they apparently had. And I myself was simply tracing the logical outworkings along both sides of the “argument”. So…would you clarify? In Brazil, do kids (in the fabled season they believe Santa is real) actually believe the “local Santa” is THE Santa? Or understand he is a substitute and believe the real is American? Very interesting to learn how things go during Cmas in different parts of the world.

  14. Santa is for the children and I don’t believe the children mind one way or another. They notice differences in people even as infants, but they don’t have any preconceived notions about inherently good or bad traits until WE TEACH them. Herein lies the opportunity for adults to demonstrate acceptance, love, and respect.

  15. Diana, I’m undecided on this. I am all for kids being able to see themselves in their role models, heroes, and cultural figures–but also wonder if Santa Claus could be whatever race we wanted him to be whether that would be confusing for kidsโ€ฆthen who is the “real” Santa that they can all collectively look to and believe in? Regardless, I’m glad this dialogue is going on because at least we are all becoming aware and starting to pay attention to such nuances. Thanks for your post and for opening up the forum for discussion.

    • Hi Diahann, I’m afraid I’ve opened up an unsolvable riddle. But it’s one the article brought to light and that ostensibly strikes a chord with the L.A. population. My husband mentioned the topic and I asked him to email me the article. I smelled a post. =)

      I didn’t see updates on my last visit. Will chk again when I can. Xxxx Diana

  16. why do people make everything a politically right issue? why are we constantly rewriting history and, the majority is always trying to bow to everything and one just because they want to fit-in? How un-holistic! Wonderful thinking out loud! xxoo Deb

    • I was going to say in another comment the same thing about too many things being warped politically “correct.” Except that one could argue 1) you feel that way bc you’re not black and look part of the white majority 2) as I said a number of times in the comments, the deep response of the black shoppers at the mall is telling. How much it meant to them speaks volumes on the need, the place for diverse representation of Santa.

      Again, still thinking, presenting both sides. This feels like the first time you and I talked “issues.” We’re usually volleying kudos to one another. =)

      • maybe because we are better friends than we thought with deeper roots than we have examined? I don’t believe kids really emphasize on color or ethnicity but they’re surrounded by ego centered hearts… U don’t hear Argentinian fighting about such nonsensical issues. I’ve never worried about being anything but honest and respectful ~ that’s RIGHT.

      • *Grin*

        Well, my dear, Argentina is not quite the melting pot America is and with the ignominious issues rooted in color that lasted a good century past the Civil War here, many African-Americans will remain sensitive. Teasing out the logic to other people groups like Koreans cast a helpful light on this for me (helped me see the silliness) but I come back to how meaningful black Santa is to some blacks and have to affirm what they feel and want.

      • Perhaps … I didn’t mean Argentinian ~ but African ~ Sorry … I guess we now need a doll that’s bedridden and a crooked smile and breathing machine, too? Forgive me but every race has had their persecutions. I’m not bothered by any such aspects, but rather on character and morality ~ Blessings friend ~ Debbie

      • Yes, Deb. Holding out both sides, that’s what I was saying. That from one perspective, it can get ridiculous. But good to know this is YOUR perspective. (Good to hear you speak with such passion not only in poetry but prose! Though I’ve read your nonpoem posts).

      • I think how kids pick up on racism or any other oppression will depend on how fierce that oppression or marginalisation is for them. I am ‘white’ of skin colour, yet being Jewish, I was as a child and am as an adult very aware of being ‘other’.

        If there was an awesome ‘superhero’ in Jewish guise, I wonder how that might feel. How it might affect a sense of pride and power…?

      • By what I understand the Old Testament has countless Heroes ~ Moses, Abraham etc… If kids ostercize in race, they do the same with me, I’m handicapped and in other ways… personally I don’t need a hero or heroine because nothing temporal lasts or remains the same, don’t you think? Education in the home is so needed. Sincerely Debbie

  17. It’s funny this post reminds me of when my daughter was a little girl maybe 7, and she went around her class telling all her friends there was no such thing as Santa. I got a call from her school, to come down and talk to the principle about this. I was reprimanded for her telling kids that, I told the teacher I never told her to do that, she did that on her own. She was telling the kids that their parents were the people giving the gifts and that it’s not right to thank Santa, they should thank their parents and God. My kid, was so provocative at that age lol.

  18. It’s interesting the question you bring up, about what does this white Santa represent to children of color. You remind me of my family, from a generation ago, they would have said the same thing. My mom and her sisters, seemed so color conscience back in the day, but I guess that was the time. But they instilled in us never to forget how bad they had it. It’s good to be reminded that just a couple of decades ago, racism was much more prevalent and in your face.

    • Oh my goodness one other thing!!! When I was little, I figured out at 4 that Santa wasn’t real, because my mom had let me believe the Santa story. I said to her, “mom, Santa isn’t real and the reason why is because at Sears he was white, and at my school he was black.” She tried to give me the Santa’s helpers business, but I said nope, he’s not real. But the tooth fairy, I believed that one till I was about 7.

    • Yes, I’m so pleased at the strides “we” have made the last several decades (like I’m black LOL). As I said to several bloggers here, though, the reaction of those shoppers says a whole lot. It’s still a current issue for many.

      And I laughed at the story of the bright 4-yr-old Shazza. Now what if the Sears had been black and the one at school white? Did you go to a “black” school or one in a black neighborhood?

      • I went to one in a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, many years ago. I don’t think it mattered where I saw the black or white one I wouldn’t have believed the story about Santa either way. My mom said that I was right and she’s glad she didn’t have to tell me, that I figured it out on my own.

        It is a currant issue for many, I think because racism is still prevalent today, even if it’s on a smaller scale.

      • Of course it’s still prevalent. I hung out in Brooklyn a lot, the season I cut school (Stuyvesant) to go to my best friend’s instead, Brooklyn Tech. We hung out at Prospect Park, too. I still tried to keep the grades up. ๐Ÿ˜›

  19. Mythical extensions can comfortably be the colour of the majority population. If there is a mix, then keep them, if possible, to the original depiction.
    Historical and literary characters should be faithful to origins. A Caucasian Othello? A Celtic Shylock? A Chinese Vasco da Gama or Japanese Churchill?
    Tradition also has a part. No matter if Jesus probably would have looked nothing like the depictions which have been passed down, they are part of a long established custom of those who built and carried forward the religion.

    • I agree with not changing historical real or fictional characters. But I completely disagree with you about Jesus. It’s about authenticity. Churchill was a white English man, Othello was black. Their stories are relevant to who they were, whether real-life or written. Jesus was Semitic, not Caucasian. His image was transformed to fit the white Christians who were proselytising and converting peoples from other cultures. Maybe it’s time to get back to the original? And here we come full circle to the blog post. LOL!

      • Exactly. I’m not sure if we’re volleying back and forth or going in circles. ๐Ÿ˜› The original St. Nick was olive. But it’s the one who morphed white who became popular globally. No one plans to take him back in time. (Wait. Except the Greeks?) AUGH!

      • He didn’t morph into white, Coca Cola created him in their image. And we COULD revert him if we want to. Big job, I know. But I’m all for authenticity and honouring.

  20. Diana, it’s great that you deeply considered this issue, and wrote such an excellent and thought-provoking post, when I’ve never even thought about Santa’s skin color as being controversial. It’s strange. I’ve never thought of him as being “white” to the exclusion of other races, but I’m sure many people take offense that there aren’t more ethnically diverse Santas. I just think of Santa as Santa, white as he is, because that’s what I’ve always seen, and how I’ve always thought of him. Just as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were black and Gandhi was Indian. People are what they are, or they are what they evolve to be, in the case of Santa, evolving as he has from an olive Greek Santa into a white European one. As Santa is imaginary, and eternal, he will continue to evolve in a way that reflects our changing world. Just as I’ve seen God depicted as a woman, or a Greek or a Korean, Santa, as a symbol of kindness and generosity, could easily be depicted as black, or Korean. If people want an ethnically identifiable symbol of these qualities, why not go for it? I’m all for the white Santa, or the black or Filipino or the Korean Santa. Whatever people need him to be, let him be. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In the end, with the increase in interracial marriages, all of us will eventually be so blended, you won’t be able to tell what we were originally anyway. Time will eventually erase all racial boundaries. I doubt it will be so in my lifetime, but I do see it happening eventually. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great post!

    • Thanks for taking the time, CBird. We’ve had a rich discussion here looking at both sides of the question. One could say you’ve thought “of Santa as Santa, white as he is, because that’s what I’ve always seen, and how I’ve always thought of him” because he’s reflected your color. And others would wonder how far we can “modify” God to accommodate our own paradigms or preferences. But these are your views and I’m glad you have added to the tapestry.

      Your take on the future of RACE is interesting. I think race is part of, though not in entirety, our identity and don’t see its getting obliterated in the days ahead. A subscriber and I disagreed with another loyal reader of mine

      *http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/shades-of-grey/ here if the subject interests you any further.*This discussion over Santa made me spill the beans to a blogger that I’m gearing up for a collaborative endeavor on the subject of race in March. Stay tuned.

      I thanked you in another comment for the follow. I hope it’s another journey you will enjoy.

      Xxxx Diana

      • Hi Diana, I think you’re right to some degree in that Santa is reflected in my own color and so that’s how I see him, but if he had been black from my first childhood experience of him, as was Martin Luther King, for instance, then that’s how I would have seen him. So, I’m not sure I would agree totally with your statement. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Also, here are some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau about interracial marriages in the 2010 census: interracial or interethnic opposite-sex married couple households grew by 28 percent over the decade from 7 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2010. If this trend continues, eventually many people of the future, at least in the US, will be a blend of many races.

        It’s all an interesting discussion. I can agree with some of the points in Vic’s post above, but not all; there is a great deal of social conditioning that I think goes on whatever your race, as he says, but the color of a person’s skin is hard to change (of course that doesn’t stop people from trying with skin whitening treatments in many countries, such as Korea and Oman). There are always people that will continue to judge a person by the color of his skin; and that judgment can certainly be reflected in a person’s whole self-concept.

        Maybe my comment about each of us eventually becoming a melting pot of different races is just wishful thinking. I hope not. I can envision a world of individuals who all look different, yet are racially indistinguishable. It would be nice if no one was ever judged for the color of his skin, or his age, etc.

        We’ll be looking forward to your collaborative effort. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I can see where you’re coming from CatBird, but I’d prefer that we keep our differences and celebrate them, rather than just become a mass of mixtures. I’m not for keeping everyone ethnically pure AT ALL. Yuck! And I think that when people create children from different cultures, the children aren’t half-half, but twice as much and I love that. In my family, we have quite a few with twice as much. With a diverse palette, the world is more interesting, than if we mix all the colours… You know what happens with a paint box if you do that – yucky sludgy greyish brown.

      • Hi Jet Black, I have seen some beautiful children from mixed race marriages, and you’re right, they’re twice as much! Though I do understand what you mean that you don’t want the sludgy greyish mixture of a paint box, I hope that wouldn’t happen. I’d like us all to celebrate our differences due to our simple individuality, and that comes from within, not from the color of our skin. We are all unique! I’d like all humans to become color blind, so that we all stop creating these artificial hierarchies and boundaries and just celebrate our differences because they make us who we are, and beautiful. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Cat Bird. I didn’t mean that the kids are twice as much or any more special or beautiful than anyone else. I think that sort of thinking is potentially racist too. All I meant was that they have both/all their descendant cultures to draw on, not ‘half’. And I’m afraid I really don’t seek colour blindness. I don’t think that’s the way to go. For me it’s about seeing it all, all cultures, all ethnicities, recognising difference, and respecting and appreciating those differences

      • I think CB and JB have been on the same page in the last several threads, just using the terms differently (color blind, e.g.). Your explanations are landing you on the same page.

        I am thoroughly enjoying the bold way you (plural) are defining your positions – these also are our identity. =)

      • CBird (for the sake of readers), aka Cathy, yes I can see: “if he had been black from my first childhood experience of him, as was Martin Luther King, for instance, then thatโ€™s how I would have seen him.” Thanks for bringing the stats in. That’s an interesting vision you have.

        Some residual thoughts after a tiring day: (Led our homeschool group in Cmas caroling at a nursing home.) Race is one thing, racism another (here, the conditioning comes in). And race comprises a good part of our identity. Which is why I am not pushing/hoping for a majority of blends, though I have no issue with the doubled richness of it.

  21. my first day here. what a fun discussion, and very thoughtful posts from all. i’m certainly going to follow you, diana.
    and though i said it above, in reply to someone, i’ll say it again… i find it weird that, in a time when jesus and christmas are not mentioned in order to present an appearance of inclusivity, santa is thrust forward as neutral and all encompassing. as if he wasn’t based on a christian bishop. as if he is not part of christian/european colonial/20th century american hegemony. people are weird, aren’t we?
    that said, as an indigenous person, i chose to tell my daughter from the beginning where presents come from. i never pretended anything about santa. nor did her father. we told her it is a story. at about age six, she came to me and said, ‘mom, is it okay if i believe in santa. i mean, i get that he’s not real, but i’d like to go along with believing in him. may i?’
    given that people appear to have built in reverence and spiritual aspects, we will seek avatars. what is the value of an avatar whose entire trope is proving love through giving toys? what is he for? and he’s not even like old bishop nicholas giving means to the poor, nope, he’s about judging naughty and nice, and again, the prize is a toy. nothing more substantial. perhaps bill watterson expressed it best in his old ‘calvin and hobbes’ strip, when calvin is singing ‘he sees you when you’re sleeping… ‘ etc, with growing alarm, until he stops and cries out that santa must be in the CIA…
    anyhow, good to read so many positive and interesting viewpoints. keep it up!

    • What awesome reflections, pp. You have ME smiling. “flippin’ weird” is one of the wisest comments here. hence the conundrum: no answer, really.

      โ€˜mom, is it okay if i believe in santa. i mean, i get that heโ€™s not real, but iโ€™d like to go along with believing in him. may i?โ€™” HUH! awww, precious, sweet, weird, funny, interesting. likely she wanted to feel she belonged with friends and other young “believers”. You’re actually the first blogger to wag your finger at the jocund, red-cheeked avatar. Love your deconstruction (and the CIA joke). Actually, the issue I have as a Christian is that (ironically, when St. Nick had started out as a philanthropic Christian) the Europeanized Santa zapped into a secular God. Idols made by the hands of man. That’s wwere I was going with the omniscience. On another level, we get to the definition of “naughty and nice.” A judgmt of mere behavior – when it’s so much deeper. Thanks for the follow. I am thrilled you’ve joined the ranks of my intelligent, thoughtful readers. Xxxx Diana

  22. I think if the old guy delivers the goodies, 99 out of 100 kids won’t care what his color is. ๐Ÿ™‚ Santa is a magical being and I think he/she can be whomever he/she wants to be… including Greek or Turkish. I was in Turkey last year and they were quite proud of the “fact” that Santa was a Turk. When I lived in Africa I had an ebony horned mask from the Ivory Coast that I put a cotton beard on and declared was Santa. Worked for me, there were presents under the Christmas Tree on Xmas morning. (The tree was actually some limbs I had woven together). LOL Great discussion, Diana. โ€“Curt

    • “I think if the old guy delivers the goodies, 99 out of 100 kids won’t care what his color is. ๐Ÿ™‚ ”

      LOL

      I’m always glad for the updates you bring us from the various corners of the world, Curt. St. Nick was actually supposed to be from Turkey (other sources just say he was a Greek by the Mediterranean). Your report is so interesting. And the makeshift tree is heartwarming.

  23. Because “Santa” is a female saint in Spanish Santa Claus, by rights, should be a Latina or a Spanish lady. So, isn’t Mrs. Claus the real deal? The bearded dude should be called either Santo Claus or San Claus.

  24. I see nothing racist in your blog at all. Santa is after all a myth and its perfectly alright to celebrate the concept any way you wish within your own culture. So you can make Santa any colour you like. I don’t know why people have to be so silly about such a small thing in insisting he be black, or white or red or whatever. Let’s just enjoy the season together. We all come from the same original parents and culture shouldn’t separate us.

    • Of course thereโ€™s nothing racist in the blog. I fear you may have missed the point, Ian, but that may be because you donโ€™t experience racism or sexism (only based on an assumption from your photo โ€“ apologies if Iโ€™m wrong).

      As for the Santa thing, please remember folks, that while the original St Nikolaos was Greek, the entity that exists now is a fabrication by Coca Cola, I believe, so they can call him any darn thing they like. LOL!

      • Actually you are wrong Jet Black. I have experienced racism living in countries where to be white is a rare and unusual thing. Racism takes various forms. It can be shunning, discrimination, rejection. I’ve found that from a minority and not the majority. Instead of feeling slighted and angry I determined to try and make friends with those who did not accept me. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. I shrug it off and move on. I’ve found anger about these things destroys the one who is angry not those who cause the anger. I feel very comfortable in a multi-cultural multi-racial mix and have lots of friends from different cultures scattered around the world where I’ve worked, lived and travelled. Mistrust breeds mistrust.

      • Hi Ian, I appreciate the wisdom: “Iโ€™ve found anger about these things destroys the one who is angry not those who cause the anger. ”

        In fact, the liver literally stores grief and anger. Hence the plethora of health issues we face when we’re emotionally imbalanced (knowingly or not). I’m glad to know you better. Inversely, resolving matters of the heart can help restore us to health.

  25. Interesting topic and one I’ve actually contemplated once in a while. Santa has certainly evolved over time and I think wherever he is depicted should reflect the community. In my life it was never about what race he was but whether or not he was real and I think that’s still the main question. The white beard and red suit make all things equal … he’s just Santa.

  26. Hi Diana. My family also doesn’t place a focus on Santa at Christmas time. We believe it is better not to. It’s funny to me these types of issues that arise in the US about racial issues concerning such things. I guess it’s just because of my Brazilian reality, where this type of stuff isn’t even considered. I once saw a tshirt, and written on it was something like this, “25% African, 25% Indigenous, 25% Dutch, 25% Portuguese, 100% Brazilian. My kids are a heinz 57 mix – english, irish, scottish, sweetish french, african, indigenous, dutch, Maybe some portuguese – yet 100% Brazilian and 100% Canadian (hehehe). Did you know that Santa Clause was an invention by Coca Cola? Blessings Diana. =)

    • I’m so glad you enlighten us, Staci. Yes, Jet Black – and possibly another reader – told us about C Cola. I find the rest of your comment so interesting. I am really happy to be getting a clearer picture of Santa and people’s (non) thoughts about him outside the U.S.. I did offer I HAVE a VOICE a reason why the race issue is still a live wire here. I meant to say on my last visit, btw, that your family is just beautiful.

      • Oh Diana, you are so sweet. Thank you for such a kind compliment. I saw your little cutie in the post you did on ice cream. I was noticing the ingredients too in that post and I’m so happy that you put them. I can get all the ingredients here and I’m going to try and make my own. Thanks a ton. Blessings.

    • Staci, I realized you probably didn’t see the Smarts, Praise..Myth of Self-esteem post that parents really took to. Your comment on my son’s photo triggered it bc there’s a shot of him in there but it’s the content I am referring you to. It was part 5 of the Greatness series…it’s also no. 2 on my Most Popular. On why we likely don’t want to tell our kids they’re smart.

  27. Such an interesting topic, and something I actually hadn’t considered. We don’t do Santa in our house, so I don’t know what my kiddo would think if he saw a Santa of another ethnicity and him wondering whether that’s the real one or not. I grew up in the Philippines and was raised with Santa, and yeah, the guys who dressed up were Filipino and not white.

    I think when people cheer for their own ethnic representation, it’s more because they want to do as much as they can to further their presence in society, instead of hoping that their kids believe that Santa is black/non-white. It’s like how people watch certain ethnic-movies to support their communities. And yes, I suppose some parents would want their kids to think outside the box and believe that they’re not limited to certain roles (because being a minority does seem to impose limits).

    • Hi Nina, very well put on all counts. I’m enjoying the picture of Santa that’s coming in from different corners of the world. Well articulated points in your second paragraph. Thanks for your time.

  28. Just my opinion, but I thought the more shocking part of this whole issue lately was when the Fox anchor said Jesus was White. If people want to say Santa is of any race, then I’m fine with it (even though we know what St. Nicholas was actually Greek), but Jesus was and always will be a Middle Eastern Jew, and it is offensive to say he was anything else.

    • Though I hate to classify Jesus on par with Santa, D.E., in this regard, yes – they similarly became “popularized” as white. Isn’t that INTERESTING? Says a lot about the “majority rule,” the human penchant for all things white. This, I mean with not an iota of racism against white people or readers!! As I discussed in another thread here, it has been proved time and again (and admitted among blacks) that African-Americans have been partial to the lighter shades among them. I harbor no prejudice at all – am just noting human tendency, apparently a universal preference for white – in the spectrum of races.

      • Firstly, I don’t think that you can use the word racism when applied about people of colour discriminating against white people. Racism includes power that very few non-white peoples have over white peoples. That’s not to see there can be intolerance and discrimination, but the terminology is important.

        Secondly, I don’t think there is a ‘human’ desire for whiteness, I think it stems from colonialism and racism. If Europeans had just stayed home and not decided to ‘discover’ the world, or if they’d gone discovering to meet as equals with the rest of the world, then I don’t think anyone would want to be whiter.

      • Hi Jet, while racism – like many words of the Eng lexicon, will have more than one definition and shades of meaning, you bring up a good point that it implies that power that few have over white peoples. And by “human” desire, I did not consciously mean innate or inherent. That’s why I used the word penchant. Indeed, much of it comes from practices like colonialism. In other words, is learned. But I’m sensing a chicken or the egg issue. WOULD, COULD Europeans have set out to meet other groups as equals? Some good thinking on your part, an interesting option you throw out. Something about the color white that predisposes us (whether white or not) to associate it with superiority and entitlement. Again, I allude to the treatment of blacks among themselves on this point.

      • And Koreans amongst themselves? And Jews amongst ourselves? Apart from racism within the Jewish community, there is also internalised anti-semitism that encourages a preference for not wanting to look Jewish, i.e. more gentile = more white.

      • I’m not sure I follow, Jet, Not sure where your last comment goes counter to what I’ve said. You bring up a corollary issue here which I mentioned to Curt. Oh, maybe I did that in the “Mouth of Slavery” post. Simply, the observation of the human inclination to differentiate ourselves any way we can (and differences are good and fine except) we go farther to attribute value to those differences. Apart from the fact that Koreans are among the most bigoted people as a group (which means exception) and were greatly so for the longest time against the darker peoples, yes, within each group we fight, war, bad-mouth to put ourselves above anyone we can. Obviously I use “we” in the broad sense.

      • Too late to respond now. Must sleep. But will endeavour to return to explain better what I mean. Good to be having this conversation. Have a good evening. For me it’s almost morning. x

  29. As a counter to the “colour blind” thinking, that may be thought of as anti-racist, but really isn’t, I found this and wanted to share it with you, Diana and your readers…

    โ€œIt is when we think we can act like God, that all respect is lost, and I think this is the downfall of peace. We lie if we say we do not see color and culture and difference. We fool ourselves and cheat ourselves when we say that all of us are the same. We should not want to be the same as others and we should not want others to be the same as us. Rather, we ought to glory and shine in all of our differences, flaunting them fabulously for all to see! It is never a conformity that we need! We need not to conform! What we need is to burst out into all these beautiful colors!โ€ – C. Joybell C.

  30. And I think black people, well all people of colour carry around a ton of internalised racism. As do all marginalised, oppressed groups take on their oppression internally. That’s how these systems work so well. No need to keep working so hard at keeping people cowed if they do it to themselves. Job done! So for me, it’s not chicken or egg, it’s pure chicken. LOL!

  31. Hope you like this quote from Audre Lord: “Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.โ€
    โ€• Audre Lorde

  32. Ok, you talk about “the treatment of blacks among themselves” and I responded with “Koreans amongst themselves, and Jews amongst themselves.” This is what I call internalised racism. It’s something that happens as part of oppression. The oppressed take on their own oppression and believe in it and then do it to themselves and each other. And that leaves the oppressors free to get on with business. Job done!

    Hope that makes a bit more sense?

    I learnt a lot from Re-evaluation Counselling many years ago. See their explanation: http://www.rc.org/uer/InternalizedRacism.html

  33. And a further Audre Lord quote: โ€œIt is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.โ€
    โ€• Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

    • Jet, I don’t see that any reader will take issue with those wonderful quotes I myself agree with. If it was CatBird who had used the term color-blind, the context and heart with which she wrote show she shared your sentiments, though perhaps not in the exact categories or paradigms you saw in your mind. I’m signing off this thread; have been trying to juggle homeschooling, week’s errands, and what I hope will be a special year-end post for my amazing readers. I look fwd to my own revisit – when time will allow.

      Be well. Diana

      • I’m impressed with the engagement that this thread has generated. Good post! I look forward to more. And if you have time, you’re welcome to come over and see what I write… jetblackliving.wordpress.com and jetsmallstones.wordpress.com. x

  34. Very interesting post and very interesting discussion as well! I spent part of my childhood in Holland, where the white St. Nicholas had black assistants (the Zwarte Pieten). Looking back on that now, I can see how that might be seen as very racist, but the people I knew there (of all races) didn’t seem to mind. I wonder if that’s changed at all now.

      • Good question. I’m not sure what the breakdown was back then. Current statistics show that about 80% of the country’s population are ethnic Dutch, with the rest mainly being immigrants from Turkey, Indonesia, Surinam etc. I may have had a distorted view of the situation, as the school I went to was more ethnically “mixed” than other Dutch schools.

        And…yeah. The Zwarte Pieten were not just black elves, they were usually white people in blackface, at Christmas events and such. I think back to that and am not even sure what to say.

  35. I am not comfortable with making changes of this kind solely so that political correctness can be established. Far better to start from kindergarten to educate children’s understanding that, e.g., the Santa character was a European and must remain so; but that he’s ‘available’ to all children. You can’t turn tradition on its head because it makes you angry. You can’t change what people have been doing for hundreds of years because you feel you’re on the outside looking in. What you can do is *participate*; and in that fashion ensure you’re part of everything going on.

    • Though many will disagree, Margaret, that he must remain European (and remember, the original historical Nick was a Mediterranean) you bring up an interesting distinction that he need not change to be available to all races. Hmm. Arguable, but important point. I’m glad you take a stance. That’s what a forum is for. And thank you so much for the follow, new friend.

      Diana

  36. I am for the strengthening of the artificiality. Allow the different ethnicities to portray Santa, it will help them understand the portrayal, and hopefully search for the original truth, mush as you did. Accurate and honest history helps to aim the future direction. I never told my son that Santa was real, I always told him it was a representation, something to believe in and represent people’s aspirations and beliefs at times when needed. I do not think it ever took away the magic, and I still believe it allowed the magic to continue longer. I for one would smile stupidly from ear to ear if I saw a black, korean, Hindu, or (especially) Native American Santa. to me it is the culmination of a year of melting-pot culturality of a winter solstice celebration of the renewal of the yearly cycle, and to celebrate the bounty that is to come, and be grateful for what has already passed, the indistinction of ethnicity only serves to remind everyone that it is in the heart, not the skin, that true beauty and magic lies. Viva la Diffrence, and let it show that regardless of appearance, Christmas is in the heart, not the appearance. Just my 2 cents ๐Ÿ™‚ love this post, made me think ๐Ÿ™‚

    • And think you sure did, Andersays. Your five cents – not two – I keep in the holistic treasury of reflections. “Allow the different ethnicities to portray Santa, it will help them…hopefully search for the original truth.” Hmmm.

      A very well defined position, not that of a cynic. One that requires faith in human intellect. Thrilled you enriched our discussion. Thank you.

      • always a pleasure to enrich a discussion already wealthy… glad I added to it. faith in human intellect? maybe, i usually try to believe that people will take the time to explain to their children, even though i know many like to keep them believing in “magic”. C”est la Vie ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks again, and as always, for having discussions that reinforce my faith in human intellect

    • Your opinion’s welcome here. Hmm. You’re the first to bring up the importance of the costume. Actually, you’re right to point out that that is what’s really iconic. Thanks for making your way through the posts and for the follow, LL. =)

  37. You asked me to weigh in on this subject but it looks like the whole gamut has been run here. First of all, My dad was the only one that was in Korea. I was only able to spend time in Germany, where I was born, and Taiwan for 16 months. I had very little experience with Santa Clause in my upbringing. My children had some but it wasn’t the focus of the season for us. Most financially challenged families tend to downplay Santa and encourage the giving rather than getting. I agree with prairiepomes comments as well as many other. I saw a movie that depicted Santa in the color of the child visiting. I never noticed color and most kids, unless taught otherwise, don’t notice either. They just accept at face value without judgement. I’m hoping it gets more and more that way as our world becomes more global. I told my kids Santa did his job for the kids whose parents couldn’t provide and we gave what they had. So there was no endless list of wants. They were also required to give in order to get. And not broken stuff either. I also taught them to take what they heard in church as myth, not set in stone fact. There were lessons in moratlty, extended family in church but facts being preached were historically, bent toward who was doing the writing. To me, anyone can be a Santa, All you have to do is be an anonymous benefactor for someone in need. It’s the anonymous part most have trouble with. I’m enjoying reading your blog. It’s taken quite a while just to read a few of the comments on this post. I’ll get more time next week to peruse the rest. Happy New Year.

    • Insearch, I thoroughly value the parenting wisdom and your time on my blog. While I differ with your take on church teachings as myth, I love your perspective on the rest. I had meant did you learn much about Korea from your father – a personally relevant inquiry, for the place of my birth (of which I don’t know very much and which you don’t really need to get into). I appreciate your getting behind the skin to what Santa is supposed to represent, and the way you sought to teach your kids the essence of generosity, which we can know as you said only in anonymity.

      Yes, it will be nice continuing to share in each other’s story.

      All the best in the new year,
      Diana

      • Sorry I misunderstood. My dad didn’t talk to us about anything! Church teachings are based in fact but I believe have been distorted to serve the ruling parties purpose. The message of love and compassion can be found in all religions prior to distortion by men. It requires a serious study of the history. I’m looking forward to reading more. I love the way you start conversations.

      • =)

        Millions of WordPressers out here. Every issue will refract into countless perspectives and opinions. We will also not hear the same question being posed, bc we listen autobiographically – through our own experiences, bias, fears, passions. And this is part of blogging at its best, to come to the roundtable and lend the ear we would like for our own voice.

  38. Great discussion. I don’t see anything wrong with black or Asian Santas. Maybe because the men who dress up as Santa aren’t the ‘real’ Santas anyway. But if a child wants to believe he is, what’s the problem with that?

  39. My son, very mixed background (jamaican black, jamaican asian, english, scottish, french, irish and many etcs. like us all – oh yes, and one grandfather born in Hong Kong) used to say: “I wonder if Father Christmas is coming tonight. I wonder if SHE will remember.”

  40. Pingback: How to Succeed as a Blogger – Lighting Dynamite, Part 2 | A Holistic Journey

  41. Tradition. It’s a strong word–rife with potential for dispute. A rational mind would examine the race question in these traditions, Santa and Jesus, for their historical precepts and for their cultural impact. Historically what Santa’s based on is likely white–though the impact on the tradition (symbol of paternal unconditional love and generosity to children–should apply across the board. Historically Jesus is likely not white (yet this was the far more problematic argument over the holidays) and it’s galling that the various feuding groups all want him in their genetic pool–given that everything he stands for should make race a non-issue. It’s really all about tribalism and it won’t go away until we recognize that, to survive, the “tribe” has to include all of us and nature as well.

    • Firstly, I appreciate your recognition of strong words. =)

      “what Santa’s based on is likely white–though the impact on the tradition (symbol of paternal unconditional love and generosity to children–should apply across the board.” Well drawn distinction.

      The question is, where does tribalism end and the legitimate need to feel counted begin? Thank you for your time here.

  42. “And how about Superman” – throwing that in at the end was well done.

    This was a good read, Diana. I had seen a bit about the debate on TV, & just don’t know what to say!

    I guess there is THE santa, yes, and it’s that which children “get”. I don’t think kids are getting that he’s white, as it happens, I think they’re getting that chubby guy white beard, red suit, pink faced is THE santa.

    You’ve raised some interesting debate. I enjoyed reading the comments.

    • =) Thanks for your thoughtful time, N. Yes, you and another reader bring up a good point….it’s his overall look and the outfit that are his trademark. One of my fav comments was that we just put Santa to sleep LOL!

  43. I have enjoyed all the discourse here. Obviously HW, you have a very well-educated and thoughtful audience. I’d like to count myself among it (them?)
    At any rate: I do not believe in Santa ๐Ÿ˜‰
    And I do not really care for Christmas at all. Haven’t since I stopped getting an obscene amount of presents (so many one year that I actually broke down and cried–big mistake–next Christmas I got pretty much bupkis, but that is probably a story I should explore on my blog)
    My point, if I have one, is this: I am for the Grinch.
    Cheers and all that,
    –Lance

    • LOL

      Audience = ONE group. But most will blissfully ignore the fact and pluralize it in the pronoun.

      I put up this post on a hunch that I should. And it generated the most comments I’d had up to that point. Which confirmed my plans for the RACE. Meaning, I knew I was onto something in opening up talks on race.

      I am not surprised you root for the Grinch, L. One of my fav comments on this post was “let’s just put Santa to sleep.” LOL!!

  44. So completely right on. Just as Jesus might actually be tanner, and more Egyptian looking if we really knew what he looked like. I suspect his image was altered along the way. We of course (I think our heads are very much in the same place) see grey, while most of the world sees black and white. But posts like these smear the picture for the children of those black and whiters so blog on gf.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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