Finding Black A ‘Santa Claus’ During Christmas

By AARON MORRISON, Staff Writer (IBTimes)

Published: December 19, 2015

As a proud African-American woman, Crystal Mozell has applied brown paint on the faces of a pair of 3-foot-tall Santa Claus statuettes that greet guests visiting her home in Los Angeles during the holidays. When her Christmas tree is up, a mocha-complexioned angel sits atop itguarding other festive decorations, including a nativity scene that features a black Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

But Christmas just isn’t Christmas until Mozell, 45, takes her family to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, to visit the mall’s African-American Santa. His long, white beard and dark skin are as real as his appeal to children in the predominantly black and Hispanic part of the city, she said.

As families prepare to celebrate Christmas in the U.S., racialminorities saidthey often struggle to find an ethnic St. Nicholas to visit or settle on the rosy-cheeked white men who are dominant in the American interpretation of the beloved figure. Generations ofwhite-washingholiday tradition and religious imagery continue to pose a dilemma for minorities who want their children to see themselves in positive figures like Jesus Christ and Santa Claus. Those who do manage to find ethnic Santa or displays of nonwhite Jesus said these images are more essential than ever amid increased racial tension and anti-immigrant sentiments seen around the country.

“We are so bombarded by Caucasian images of things that are considered good, that I want [my children] to have the experience, too,” Mozell, who this year will take her 15-month-old granddaughter to see black Santa, said in a phone interview Friday. “Whatever race you are, you want your children to see positive images, because they’ll know that they can aspire to be that and more.”

Minority communities and retailers across the U.S. havefor years reimaginedSanta as a portly black man, a zoot-suited Mexican-American and a tribal American Indian — all in an attempt to challenge the notion that the fictional character derived from Dutch folklore has to be white. “Sometimes we wonder how children begin to take on such a poor self image at such a young age. But it’s because that lack of important public figures who look like them,” Augustus Corbett, chairman of the National Black Parents Association, a Dallas organization, said in a phone interview Friday. “It communicates to African-American children that being black is less than white and that important figures are never black.”

Like Mozell, Corbett, who is also pastor of Kingdom Word Church International in Arlington, Texas, decorated his home with “blackeverything” for his wife and now-grown children during their Christmas celebration. But Corbett and other black parents said they realized their displays don’t always find acceptance among whites.

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