For some, only a white Santa Claus can come to their town.
By Sheryl Estrada
Larry “Santa Larry” Jefferson poses with a child.
For the first time, the Santa Claus greeting children at Santa Experience in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was a Black man. But, a nonwhite Santa at the country’s largest mall resulted in highlighting one of the country’s largest issuesracism.
Santa Experience co-owner Landon Luther met Larry “Santa Larry” Jefferson at the “Kringle Family Reunion,” a Santa Convention in Branson, Mo., during the summer. Jefferson was the only Black Santa out of 1,000 impersonators. Storeowners selected him to spend four days at the mall to take photos with children and listen to their wish lists. They wanted “Santa to be for everyone, period,” Luther said in an interview.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to see a Santa that looks like them,” Jefferson said to CBS Minnesota. “It gives them something to identify with. But Santa is just still Santa.
“Just Saturday, I was doing an event [jn Texas] and one child said, ‘Santa, you’re brown,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am, but Santa comes in many different colors.’ He said, ‘Oh,’ so I gave him a candy cane, he ran off with other kids.”
Jefferson is a retired U.S. Army veteran from Irving, Texas, where he also entertains children as Santa Claus.
There was so much interest that a waiting list was created to see Santa Larry.
But for many, having a Black Santa for only four days, from Thursday, December 1 to Sunday, December 4, was too much to bear. They took to social media to convince others to boycott the mall:
Tea Party Amercan (@BarryWirth) December 2, 2016
The comments section of a CBS Minnesota article published on Wednesday was wrought with racism:
The comments section of a Minneapolis Star Tribune article was so offensive that the editorial page editor, Scott Gillespie, tweeted on Thursday that it had to be turned off:
Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America’s first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!https://t.co/BQVm24DH6y
Scott Gillespie (@stribgillespie) December 2, 2016
A social media user pointed out the irony of those angered by a Black Santa Claus:
Jared Skye (@thejaredskye) December 2, 2016
Santa Claus is based on the legend of St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Catholic saint known for his secret gift giving. He was Greek, born in an area that is now part of Turkey. Most depictions show him as a tall, lean man with an olive complexion.
The fictional, white Santa Claus of the “North Pole” that is recognized in the U.S. is derived from Sinterklaas, a figure “born” in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas is celebrated throughout Europe on December 5 and 6 every year, the eve and Feast of Saint Nicholas. He has the long, white beard, though his red hat and clothing are actually church vestments.
Another Twitter user highlighted the fact that it’s not only random trolls on social media who want to keep Santa Claus white; it’s also people with influence:
A black Santa! Don’t tell Megyn Kelly!!!
Connie C. Keys (@hotelkeys) December 2, 2016
Megyn Kelly, a journalist who made headlines during the presidential election season, also couldn’t bare the thought of a Black Santa Claus.
In 2013, the host of “The Kelly File”on FOX News Channel brought an all-white panel onto her show to discuss a Slate.com article on the topic.
“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’ And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly said. “But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a Black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”
“You can’t takefactsand then try to change them to fit some sort of a political agenda or sensitivity agenda,” panelist Monica Crowley added, while Kelly concluded that you can’t change history. “How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to Black”