“We want Santa to be for everyone, period.” That was the explanation given by Landon Luther, co-owner of the photo studio at the Mall of America, which welcomed its first black Santa this year. I might point out that Santa was already “for everyone,” but then I would be accused of carrying (a lump of) coal to Newcastle since the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was flooded with so many negative comments that it shut down its comment section.
The article explains the genesis of the black Santa:
Luther started a national search last spring for a diverse St. Nicholas that kids of color would be able to relate to. Santa Sid, a 20-year veteran at MOA, finally found one while at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo., where nearly 1,000 impersonators convened for a “Kringle family reunion” in July.
Larry Jefferson, a retired U.S. Army veteran from Irving, Texas, was the only black Santa Claus in attendance. The jovial actor agreed to sign a four-day contract to work in Minnesota, after which he’ll return home to work the seasonal circuit in Dallas.
Let me first of all offer thanks to Jefferson for his service. Let me also say, based on watching this video of him in action, that he appears perfectly well-suited to the task. His speech is dialect-free, and he comes off as a jolly fat man, and that beard — as a bonus — is real.
But I do have a beef — two beefs (beeves?) actually. One is the perceived need for a “first black” or “first woman” or first anything carried out in the name of diversity. Hard though it might be for liberals to accept, life is not a succession of participation trophies. Everyone doesn’t need or get a turn at everything. I mean, what’s next? Finding the “first female Muslim” Santa? And assuming that the answer is yes, will she be permitted to where a hijab?
How, moreover, is giving “kids of color” a St. Nicholas they can “relate to” compatible with the goal of diversity? Isn’t that instead a reinforcement of homogeneity and, thus, the opposite of diveristy? Are we to understand that for as long as there have been department store Santas, black children have refused to sit on their laps or have done so grudgingly because they couldn’t identity with this well-known symbol of Christmas?
My second beef is that this decision sounds a lot like pandering — a thinly veiled effort at mollifying blacks in the country at a time when they are feeling especially angry and vulnerable. Those feelings, I submit, have less to do with the election of Donald Trump than with the failed promises of and stoking of racial resentments by the outgoing first black president.
What say we ignore Obama’s advice now that he is on his way out and give the conversation about race a rest?