Liberal Aisha Harris of Slate thinks it’s time that Santa Klaus “got a make over.” She thinks we need to make Santa a black penguin instead of an old, fat, racist white guy.
Mz. Harris tells of her early childhood where her family had images of a black Santa in her African American home but seeing a black Santa at home and white ones everywhere else confused her.
“Seeing two different Santas was bewildering,” Harris says. “Eventually I asked my father what Santa really looked like. Was he brown, like us? Or was he really a white guy?”
“My father replied that Santa was every color. Whatever house he visited, jolly old St. Nicholas magically turned into the likeness of the family that lived there,” she wrote.
But her father’s gentle explanation wasn’t good enough for her.
But at the time, I didn’t buy it. I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn’t the “real thing.” Because when you’re a kid and you’re inundated with the imagery of a pale seasonal visitor–and you notice that even some black families decorate their houses with white Santas–you’re likely to accept the consensus view, despite your parents’ noble intentions.
So what is Harris’ solution? Make Santa a black penguin instead of a stupid, racist white guy.
Yes, a black penguin.
Aisha Harris’ “penguin Santa.”
Why? Here is Harris’ explanation:
For one thing, making Santa Claus an animal rather than an old white male could spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame that I remember from childhood. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course). That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white–and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a “joke” or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes–helps perpetuate the whole “white-as-default” notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).
Now, historically speaking, the Santa legend came from Roman times, through German influences and European, to the United States, and ultimately to the advertising industry. Those are all traditionally “white” influences, if a race must be assigned.
Still, do you think Harris has a point? Is a white Santa racist?