I was made aware of this story from a listener. This is a story about Santa Claus. A black Santa Claus in Metro Detroit. The story appeared on MLive written by Gus Burns (former Saginaw News writer).
When I titled this blog "if only WE could see through the eyes of a child", I meant it as a country, not as individuals. Well, it applies to some individuals.
I believe most people today don't live life through skin color. We're not oblivious to color. We obviously see black and white. But I do think we have achieved in many ways the Martin Luther King dream of "my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Sadly however, in many ways (I believe dwindling ways), color is still a divider and not a uniter.
I'm a firm believer "Jesus is the reason for the season", but I don't deny Santa Claus. After all, he is based on a true person. St. Nicholas was a historic saint from the 4th century. He was known for secret gift-giving and became the model for Santa.
He is loved by children around the world. Hopefully by adults, too.
Which brings me to the story. I underlined and italicized some sentences I thought were powerful.
David G. Allen, a 56-year-old black man from Highland Park, hopes to break the color barrier.
"Traditionally, at the end of the (Detroit Thanksgiving Day) parade is Santa Claus; they've all been white," he says from his makeshift North Pole in Southfield's Northland Mall. "I'd like to be the first black Santa Claus in the Thanksgiving Day Parade."
Allen, who's been nicknamed "Chocolate Santa" by those who know him at the mall, agrees that his race makes him a unique choice to play Santa Claus, traditionally a white man derived from Dutch lore, but said he's a "natural" and loves interacting with the kids. It's his second year taking children's toy orders.
His additional pigment doesn't cause too many problems, Allen says. "I've heard some older people, 'You're not real cause you're (black),'" he says. "I call them player haters." An occasional child will also comment.
"The question is, you're not real, you're black?" says Allen, as a fan blows his direction to cool him beneath the full-bodied red felt suit. "Santa's a kid's fantasy... He's got helpers... they could be Chinese, white, black, we're all helpers working for Santa, that's what I usually tell them." Most kids don't even recognize race; it's just a part of "fantasy" that kids are able to look past, said Allen.
It's Monday afternoon at Southfield's Northland Mall and from a ornamental throne staged amid puffy cotton to replicate snow arises a deep bellow. A bass-heavy "Ho, Ho, Ho!" resonates from the portly mall Santa as he waves his white-gloved hands to a few passing children. "It's from the gut," Allen says. "It's all about the, 'Ho Ho Ho,' and kids come running like the Pied Piper."
He's dressed in the traditional red suit, wire rimmed glasses fall to the tip of his black nose and his black cheeks peek from behind an uncomfortable looking fake white beard. He's like thousands of other mall Santas in most regards. "Truly, kids don't see color," says Allen. "Last year I had my suit on, I rode the bus downtown, Campus Martius they were ice skating, about 50 white kids ice skating. "They see me in my red suit, come running, 'Santa, Santa, Santa,' and they did a group picture with me, looked like a raisin in a snowstorm," he says and laughs. "So kids don't see color, just like prejudice, they're taught that."
So kids don't see color, just like prejudice, they're taught that. THEY'RE TAUGHT THAT. Teaching that leads to I've heard some older people, you're not real cause you're (black).
Even Santa Claus isn't immune. And yes, I know there are stories where you could reverse the colors. This isn't anything new. We know this.
If only our love for Santa as a child, along with our blindness to color as a child, would remain with us our entire lives.
I believe this is true for most people. But for many it's not, and unfortunately, they are teaching their children.
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