Does it matter if Santa is black or white?

Santa at Greenbriar Mall. Image courtesy of Facebook.

Last week, Mall of America welcomed its first African-American Santa Claus.

Larry Jefferson made history as the first Santa of color in the mall’s 24 year history.

While news of Jefferson’s appointment made the rounds, Jefferson said he was humbled by all the attention.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to have a Santa who looks like them,” Jefferson said to WCCO. “It gives them something to identify with, but Santa is still just Santa.”

Jefferson’s Santa stint at the largest mall in the country was only four days — from Thursday to Sunday — but his appointment caused an online uproar.

Just a few hours after the Minneapolis Star Tribune posted a profile of Jefferson — a retired Army veteran who has played Santa for 17 years — the newspaper had to turn off comments for the story. No explanation was given for disabling comments, but the reporter for the story said it is a routine to turn off comments for stories that deal with race and public safety.

Judging from the (still accessible) comments posted to the online version of the WCCO story and comments that cropped up on social media, it seems not everyone was happy to see Santa Larry.

Comments ranged from those who argued that Santa Claus or rather, Saint Nicholas, is white. Others argued that a character is just a character and therefore can have many representations. Some suggested a black Santa would be confusing to children, others said, that depends on who your children are.

If this all sounds familiar, you’ve probably been around these parts for a while.

More than a decade ago, in October 2001 when the Mall at Stonecrest first opened its doors in Lithonia, there was a white Santa on hand to welcome visitors for the holiday season.

But after African-American shoppers requested a black Santa, their wish was granted and the mall began a two Santa tradition — one black and one white.

 This didn’t necessarily sit well with everyone.

The first year, black shoppers didn’t like the mall’s decision to call the white Santa “traditional Santa” and the black Santa “cultural Santa.”

“We don’t want to call him Cultural Santa — we want to call him African-American Santa, ” said Stonecrest marketing director, Donald Bieler in a 2002 interview with the AJC. “And what we would consider Traditional Santa, we call Santa. So the Mall at Stonecrest has Santa and African-American Santa.”

The Santas at Stonecrest worked different shifts which sometimes resulted in white customers exiting the line when black Santa came on duty and black customers hanging out to wait until white Santa finished his shift.

The white Santa told the Chicago Tribune in 2003 that he saw about the same number of black and white children. The black Santa said 95 percent of the kids jumping on his lap and sharing their Christmas wishes were black or hispanic.

Stonecrest was likely the first, if not the only mall in the metro area, to take such a unique approach to mall Santas. Most other local malls have only offered up one option for Santa with malls like Greenbriar Mall, the Mall West End and South DeKalb Mall — all located in predominantly black communities –having a long history of employing African-American Santas.

The Mall West End was one of the first shopping centers in the country to hire a black Santa in the early 1970s. Not only is Santa black, he wears a less traditional Santa suit and goes by the name “Kente Santa.”

Reader Comments 0

2614 comments
Susan Smith
Susan Smith

I thought the Mall of America Santa was pretty cool, represents the mix we are in America. I want a Native American next year, cover all the bases, just like Matel Barbie dolls come in all colors.

Larry Colley
Larry Colley

No difference what so ever! We are all Americans! GO TRUMP!

Steve Litten
Steve Litten

Not at all ,as long as he acts like Santa \U0001f385 \U0001f385\U0001f385

Wylie Jones
Wylie Jones

Only if you were a race baiting hate rag twice over in the same year. Your readers called you out on it the last time you posted this too!

Gerald Darsch
Gerald Darsch

To me it does not matter what color or sex Santa is. Santa represents the spirit of Christmas which is love, giving, and tolerance of others.

Dana Hill
Dana Hill

They're all fake. Who cares?

Debbie Allen
Debbie Allen

It doesn't matter what color Santa is as long as he plays the part ... People needs to just stop this color thing .....

Brittany Ramzel
Brittany Ramzel

Yes this fictional character is white. Are we really gonna argue about the race of a made up character?

Marie Perkins Teska
Marie Perkins Teska

No it doesn't leave color out of things and the world would be a better place.

Gerdy Brähmer Proffitt
Gerdy Brähmer Proffitt

Santa is supposed to be Norwegian, I haven't seen a black Norwegian. But other than that I don't care.

Tyler Jenkins
Tyler Jenkins

No half your intentionally divisive post's don't matter either

Robert Hanson
Robert Hanson

I have to agree all this does is make matters worst

Billie Wilson
Billie Wilson

Don't matter if he's black or white ,as long as jesus is in Christmas.

Mary Boline Ramji
Mary Boline Ramji

Doesn't matter what color. Kids dont see color.Wish adults didn't either

Sheron Hilliker Edge
Sheron Hilliker Edge

Lol! Not at all. Anybody that thinks it does has too much free times on their hands and needs to get their priorities in life, straight.

Adam Jami Mullis
Adam Jami Mullis

Nope...as long as the message of the real santa from hundreds of years ago isn't lost

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

santas not real..get over it idiots #firstworldproblems

Binyamin Thiel
Binyamin Thiel

Santa is the spirit of Christmas and therefore he can be any race in the world.

Marva Skinner
Marva Skinner

Nope, what movie portrays him as a black jolly Elf

Pam Slattery
Pam Slattery

It's CRAP like this AJC that keeps the nation divisive!

Joma Edmonds
Joma Edmonds

Santa can be pink with purple pokey dots just so he brings my christmas

Darryn Stevens
Darryn Stevens

It seems to matter to white people. #thanksforreading

Allen Vaught
Allen Vaught

Santa is imaginary, for me she's japanese and comes wrapped in a single silk bow tie, and i feed her cookies.

Melissa Medina Feaster
Melissa Medina Feaster

It doesn't matter to me or my family. When i go to the mall i take apic with whoever is there.

Zenobia Craig
Zenobia Craig

Yes. Jesus has been straight up whitewashed! He has WOOL hair so why do we have to WHITEWASH black jesus like y'all whitewashed black jesus.

Monika Malgorzata Kennedy
Monika Malgorzata Kennedy

Saint Nicholas was a Bishop, in Europe who gave chocolates to the very poor children. When he died the Catholic Church anointed him a saint. After his death the news spread to other countries, and world wide. Candies were given always as a tradition. Greed grew and now it's about materialism. How sad. It doesn't matter what race you are it's a symbol. The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Our Lord Savior Jesus.

Stephen Hunter J
Stephen Hunter J

False.. Christmas is pagan.. Christ was born in the spring

Jennifer Ibarra
Jennifer Ibarra

I'm a Christian and Jesus was in fact born in the spring. He was also a jew ☺

Monika Malgorzata Kennedy
Monika Malgorzata Kennedy

No Stephen, Halloween is pagan. Christ was born in winter get your facts. Get to know your bible.

Chris Lashmett
Chris Lashmett

Lol, if you're looking for facts, I would avoid the bible.

Dana Hill
Dana Hill

If Halloween is pagan, I hope you didn't have a Christmas tree in your house. PS. Jesus wasn't born in December.

Stephen Hunter J
Stephen Hunter J

Monika Malgorzata Kennedy only if you really knew what was In the Bible ..and not the brainwashing Christian book

Monika Malgorzata Kennedy
Monika Malgorzata Kennedy

People we are talking about santa clause. How do you know when was he born, where you buy his side when he was born? We always celebrate Christmas in December.

Monika Malgorzata Kennedy
Monika Malgorzata Kennedy

People we are talking about santa clause. How do you know when was he born, where you buy his side when he was born? We always celebrate Christmas in December.