Seeing Santa Claus at the mall is something that many children look forward to every year. This year, the Mall of America, the biggest mall in the country, hired its first ever black Santa Claus. His name is Larry Jefferson-Gamble and he is a retired US Army veteran who has been playing santa since he was 12 years old. Although this doesn’t seem like much of an issue to most of us, there has been a lot of backlash over the race of Santa Claus.
Many people are upset and claim that “Santa Claus is white” and they have even gone as far as to boycott the Mall of America. However, the truth is that Santa is middle eastern. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born sometime in the 2nd century in Patara (modern day Turkey). He was a wealthy man and was well loved for his kindness and generosity. It is said that he dedicated his life to helping the poor and sick and he gave away the entirety of his inherited fortune to poor children from the countryside.The first story of Santa Claus appeared in the U.S.A as “Sinter Klaas” (shortened dutch for Saint Nicholas) in New York and eventually spread to the rest of the country. Shopping mall Santas did not become popularized until the early 19th century when Salvation Army began recruiting unemployed men to dress as Santa Claus in order to bring in donations for needy families.
The most ridiculous part of the backlash is that the people who are upset don’t even believe in Santa anymore. The children who have visited Mr. Gamble this holiday season couldn’t be happier to be meeting the man in the red suit. “Kids love Santa no matter what race [they] are,” Gamble told the Huffington Post last week.
Conservatives from across the nation have been showing outrage against Mall of America’s Santa Claus. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (where the first article on the new Mall of America Santa was released) and many other publications have had to disable comments on their articles due to extremely hateful comments. This included a comment from a man named Peter Morgan, who was the first to call for the boycott of Mall of America, that states “Stupid. Incredibly stupid. Santa is WHITE. BOYCOTT Mall of America. Maybe they should change their name to MALL of RAGHEAD LAND.” Hateful, ignorant comments like these are a perfect example of how blatant racism and hatred is alive and well to this day.
Although Santa Claus is an important part of many children’s holiday celebrations, it is important to keep in mind that he is a fictional character. Santa Claus’ race does not matter. What does matters is the joy he brings to kids around the world.