In 2016, retired Army captain Larry Jefferson became the first Black Santa Claus at Bloomington Minnesota’s Mall of America. While mall goers went wild with support, the internet was in an uproar against the new hire. NPR reported that negative attacks against Jefferson began spreading just as quickly as the news broke. Although the Santa stated that the attacks didn’t surprise him, “because of the times in which we are living in,” some companies are taking it upon themselves to ensure that the pool of Santas throughout our malls and beyond, remain diverse.
This past weekend, retailer Old Navy launched a virtual “Santa BOOT Camp” designed to encourage and train individuals of color to become the famed fictional character. As told to NBC News, Dion “Santa Dee” Sinclair, aka “The Real Black Santa,” says “I’m not about politics and I’m a faith-based Santa, so I know I am not the reason for the season and I’m happy to share that with anyone willing to listen, but if I’m not your kind of Santa, that’s OK. I will keep smiling and wishing the kids Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”
Other stores are also increasing their efforts to get on the good list by diversifying their Kris Kringle candidates. Macy’s and other major retailers have delighted most shoppers with their recent changes, for others, not so much.
“Change is hard for some people, and things are definitely changing,” Tim “Santa Tim” Connaghan shared with NBC News.
Old Navy expresses that they “stand for inclusivity and have a zero tolerance police for workplace discrimination and harassment.”
With this being said, the virtual training does not explicitly cover how their graduating class of multicultural Clauses will handle bigotry.
“Our Santa BOOTcamp is a lighthearted experience aimed at bringing out the inner holiday spirit in all of our attendees,” a company spokesperson said. “We will provide guidance on some of the most common challenges of playing Santa, including how to handle outrageous gift requests and to temper potential disbelief in little ones.”
What the 30 minute course will additionally cover includes learning a few phrases in Spanish and sign language, and how to capture the perfect pic with a tot in your lap.
While the nationwide debate over Critical Race Theory, police reform, and the Black Lives Matter movement continue on, the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that a character who is supposed to remain a figment of our imagination, can be any shade you decide.