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December 12, 2016 / WRAG

What does Santa look like?

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Long ago, I started collecting Santas to decorate my Christmas tree. I would buy them whenever I traveled as a memento of the trip. My tree is adorned with a Santa on a bicycle, a Santa on an alligator, and one hugging a pink flamingo. I have Santa beside the Eiffel Tower and Santa on the beach in Virgin Gorda. There are white Santas and black Santas.

This year, the year when the largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America, announced that it had hired its first African-American Santa, I’ve noticed something. As I look around in local shops to add to my collection, there are no black Santa Christmas tree ornaments anywhere. They aren’t in Target or Walmart, Pier One or World Market, in a specialty Christmas store, or even at my much beloved Eastern Market, a wonderful weekend open air flea market near my home.

I offer this as a small example of something that we have been looking at all year – unconscious/implicit bias. Have you always assumed that Santa was white? Does a jolly white man come down the chimney bringing gifts to your kids? What message does this send to your children? Who is bringing them joy on Christmas morning?

So as you go about during this holiday season, look around at the Christmas tree ornaments. How often do you see black Santas? Should you be seeing more?

4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Tracye Funn / Dec 12 2016 5:03 pm

    I totally agree and have encountered this dilemma as well. My best friend was in search of dolls for her daughter and wanted to convey a sense of ethnic pride in her culture. She found it quite a challenge. Also, I began collecting angels after my Mom’s passing (a role I assumed having become caretaker for more than 400 items). I noticed she had very few Black angels – and while they were painted Black – the faces held distinctly Caucasian features.

    • Tamara Copeland / Dec 13 2016 3:13 pm

      Tracye,
      You’ve shared another important, and perhaps little observed reality, items painted brown bya vendor who then thinks he/she is meeting the demand from a diverse community. Thanks for your comment.

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