“Santa Clause is not a n***er!” This was one of many internet responses to the Black Santa at the Mall of America this year.
The racist commentators were correct: He is an intelligent Black man who is giving his time to bring hope to children. There is nothing ignorant about that.
The Mall of America’s website was flooded with commentary from “he is a White character,” to “Making him Black seems racist.” The fact that over 150 years after slavery has ended and there are still people that fear Blacks and think that Blacks take away from White culture is astounding.
Anyone who knows anything about the history of this country knows that it has always been a melting pot, by force or otherwise. From the White House to the railroads, from traffic lights to the gas furnace, men and women of color have always been great contributors of this society.
So what is the issue? People get mad about the suggestion of Jesus being Black and now Santa? The root of the issue is that Black people have always been held down because it was engrained for generations and generations that White was the superior race. To racists, any suggestion of anything else seems ludicrous.
Slavery was outlawed but the thought behind Blacks being inferior is far from dead. It is being taught and passed down like a tradition.
The other part of this is ignorance. People make up the history that they want to accept. St. Nicholas, who Santa Claus is based on, was not from Germany; he was from Turkey. And in the time of his life in the fourth century it was called Myra, part of Asia Minor. What part about a Turkish man would make him White?
Most of what we think we know about him is legend. All we know is where he was from and he inherited a lot of money from his wealthy parents when he died. As a Bishop, he was known to give to the poor, but specifically secretly giving to the poor. In fact, what we do know is that as a Greek-speaking Turkish man with dark skin, he actually experienced discrimination in his lifetime.
Far after his death, his bones were stolen and taken to Italy. The Germans adopted his story and over time his real story was lost and replaced with this “White” image and that was further propagated by Coca-Cola.
The moral of this story is ignorance and what people want to believe is what continues to drive segregation and hatred in this country. Think about how many times you learned the real story of anything in history class. Think of how many times the version you learned always made Black people seem non-existent or subservient. For every real story of a strong leader or a person of great gravity who made a difference that was dark skinned, there is a White washed version of it.
We will never be able to change the hearts and minds of everybody for a variety of reasons. But if we can fight ignorance with truth and facts, we will start to change the perception and at the very least provoke thought, and encourage people to entertain the idea that what they think they know and what they actually know are not always one in the same.
The media did a good job at capturing the negatives about Black Santa, but there were fewer stories about all of the beautiful sentiments out there. More people were excited for their children to experience Black Santa because joy, happiness, and hope do not have a color. These are feelings and anybody can bolster those up if their heart is in the right place.
Samantha Pree-Stinson lives in Northeast Minneapolis.