Wednesday, December 22, 2010
What do we mean when we talk about a “White Christmas”??
I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality
I remember a few years ago, I worked as a customer service representative at a credit card company. Most of my coworkers were Black women. One of the women enjoyed making crafts, and was selling items for Christmas. I bought a pretty little angel. It had a Styrofoam head that was painted brown and brown yarn for hair. I thought it was beautiful, but for some reason most of my coworkers were pretty shocked that I purchased a Black Christmas decoration.
I took my little angel home, excited to show it to my family. Well, my sister told me that it was ugly, and that she did not want this angel on display anywhere in the house. When I asked her why, she told me that angels are supposed to be "pure" and "beautiful". I then inquired as to what was wrong with MY angel that she did not meet those qualifications, and my sister promptly told me that "pure and beautiful" meant that the angel was supposed to be white with blond hair!
My jaw damn near dropped to the floor. I could not imagine that my own sister had such bigoted ideals! I guess I had kind of blinded myself to the racism of the people closest to me. I just did not want to believe that my sister was a bad person, and to me, racists were the worst type of people imaginable. So I never saw her racism because to do so was to recognize that she was not the open minded person I thought I should have in my family. And even my mother, who was the most beautiful, loving open minded human being I knew, capitulated to the demands of my sister and told me that I had to keep the angel in my bedroom. (A few years later, I noted with pride that my mother had purchased a display set of Black Christmas angels that she gave a dominant place in the living room).
I remember the only Christmas decoration that depicted a nonwhite person that I saw as a child was one of the three kings in the Nativity scene. Everyone else was white as hell. Even though we all know that Jesus himself was NOT white, in the Nativity scenes, you always see a little pale skinned baby Jesus with his white mother and father.
And what is up with Santa? Why does Santa always have to be a white man? Santa represents generosity, the giving spirit. Doesn’t saying Santa HAS TO BE white make it seem like white folks are the only ones who are willing to give to others? Is that really the impression we want children to have? I spoke with my ex the other day. He has a three year old daughter, and I told him that he should dress up as Santa to give her Christmas presents this year. He basically looked at me like I was crazy, and told me that Santa is a fat old white man, so he could not possibly play the part. Come on now, Santa is an IMAGINARY person who comes down the chimney and leaves presents for kids. If you are going to lie to your children about him, why not make him look more like your family?? What is wrong with a Black Santa??
Considering the fact that little kids have the ability to totally suspend disbelief, I do not believe they would doubt Santa simply because he has dark skin. I mean, how many men do they see running around in a red suit and hat with bags full of goodies? Shoot, when I was little, our developmentally disabled uncle used to dress up as Santa, and we just thought "Wow, Santa talks JUST LIKE Uncle Dickie!" It didn't even cross our minds that he did not sound like the Santa we saw on TV. Damn, all we really noticed was the bag of gifts!
And speaking of Santa, why is he portrayed as a "jolly" fat man? How "jolly" are the fat folks YOU know?? I know I for one, am sick and tired of having to be a smiley, happy, "jolly" fat person! Anyway, I digress.
I do not understand why white people are so invested in EVERY icon of Christmas being pale. Are we that intent on proving the supremacy of white folks that we cannot even imagine multicultural choirs of angels? Or a jolly old fat dark skinned man delivering presents? I mean, damn, can't we at least get some EOC (elves of color)? Or a baby Jesus that does not look like a European child plunked down in the Middle East?
I say we need to forget about the whole image of a "white Christmas" and embrace some new icons for the holiday season!