Friday, December 19, 2008

Things I Don't Know About Being Black--the Black Santa edition

Last Christmas on NPR's Tell Me More, the Mocha Moms talked about their efforts to have Christmas reflect their identities--so that means there are only black angels on the tree, a nativity scene with brown-skinned wise men and a brown baby Jesus, a black Santa, etc. Only one of the moms even bothered with a black Santa because the other moms insisted on no Santa, stating that they didn't want their kids to think it was okay for a strange white man to come into their home at night or to think that a white man could give them something their parents couldn't. I dismissed this as typically goofy Mocha Mom foolishness (there is rarely a Mocha Mom segment on Tell Me More that doesn't make me roll my eyes), but during this holiday season, there have been a flurry of media stories about black Santas. Check it out:

It was this last one in particular that got me thinking because here were people who were like me--educated, culturally savvy, middle class black folk, trying to raise healthy, responsible kids. I thought everyone would see the Santa thing as a non-issue. Boy was I wrong. Almost none of the numerous commenters wanted their kids to believe in Santa. Many, in fact, were quite hostile to the idea, especially on racial grounds. The implication of the comments are that black parents are participating in the cultural oppression of their black kids by letting them believe in a white Santa. Some also commented that having your kids believe in Santa and then find out the truth sets kids up to not believe in other things they can't see (like Jesus).

Apparently being deeply suspicious of the whole Santa enterprise is a black thing I knew nothing about. There seem to be a lot of these things. For instance, I didn't know until three weeks ago that waiters and waitresses think black people tip worse than other people and that black people assume they will get worse service in a restaurant than other people. When I told Brian this new fun fact, he just laughed at my cluelessness.

For the record, our kids have seen lots of different Santas. We tell them that Santa uses his Christmas magic to look like the kids he's visiting. This seems to be a sufficient explanation for them and when they need a better explanation, they'll probably be too old for Santa.


claire said...

And have you even tried to describe disco kwanzaa to Cate?

Alison said...

We're talking about Santa, too--Maybelle's too young for that this year, but Walter's family did Santa when he was growing up, and mine didn't, and both of us want to replicate our own growing up experience. Oddly, my parents didn't do Santa in part for the same reason as the parents who made the Jesus comment.