Who’s Your Santa?

Larry Jefferson, Black Santa.

Larry Jefferson, Black Santa.

When the holiday time is thought of, images of a snowy winter wonderland and time spent with friends and family, while warming up by the fireplace appear. A major icon of the holidays is the character Santa Clause. Santa Clause is portrayed as a round, old, jolly man that wears lots of red and says, “Ho, ho, ho!” His famous trademark is his large, fluffy white beard. Santa is usually shown as a white man, so imagine the surprise and astonishment America felt when Mall of America hired their first black Santa Clause.

Larry Jefferson, a retired U.S. Army veteran is the first black Santa to ever work at Mall of America. In the mall’s twenty-four years of being open, all the Santas to work there have been white. “I feel like they waited so long because they were afraid of something happening back then, and now it seems more ‘accepting.’ Which is something I don’t really get,” sophomore Francesca Bruce explained. Some people are ecstatic to see a Santa of color. Senior Tope Williams said it’s, “Great! Having a black Santa may be a minuscule thing compared to all the problems we have today with race and discrimination, but it’s a start and that’s all that matters.”

Mall of America is so popular that it has become a destination for things from family vacations, weekend getaways and even honeymoons. Tourists come from Canada, England, Sweden, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Latin America, France, Germany and many more countries throughout the world. Some people haven’t really been too happy about there being a black Santa at such a major landmark in the United States. Many have taken to social media to express their feelings. Some say that Santa is not black, but white. How can Santa, who is a fictional character, be assigned a race? One person said that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were played by a white man “blacks would try to kill him.” Changing the race of an actual human being is not possible, but changing the race of a fictional character can be done. Others have decided to make racist jokes such as, a black Santa would ‘steal people’s presents.’ People are also calling for a boycott of Mall of America because of the black Santa. Williams expressed her thoughts on the people that are upset about a black Santa, “I feel like they have no right to be upset because Santa is a mythical being. If he isn’t real, then you couldn’t possibly know if he was white. People only believe he was white because that’s the way the media portrayed him.”

The demand for photos with Jefferson is very high. All of his appointments at Mall of America’s Santa Experience have been completely booked every day leading up to Christmas. Families are excited to see a Santa of color when the majority of Santas are white men. “I think it’s great because it’s exposing kids to diversity,” Bruce explained. Larry Jefferson told The Washington Post, “There needs to be more Santas of color, because this is America, and kids need to see a Santa that looks like them. That helps kids to identify with the love and spirit of the holiday, you know?”