In diverse US, Santa Claus has many faces


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In Atlanta, children of many races share their Christmas wish lists with a black Santa Claus.

In Houston, Santa dons a red zoot suit and dances to jazz as he hands out gifts in Mexican-American neighborhoods.

In Indian Country, Native American Santas add American Indian attire to their red snowsuits, visiting shops and community centers from the pueblos of New Mexico to the reservations on the Pacific Northwest.

Santa Claus might be popularly known as a white-bearded benefactor with Dutch-English origins, but multiethnic versions of Santa are making the rounds out there, too — illustrating in an increasingly diverse United States, Santa takes on whatever color you imagine him to be.

This holiday season, however, not all reactions to non-white Santas have been jolly.

At Indiana University in Bloomington earlier this month, a dormitory bulletin board posed the question, “Can Santa Claus be a black man?” in hopes of generating fruitful discussion about racial stereotypes. Instead, it generated outrage on social media because it also asked other questions that played to stereotypes, such as whether a black Santa would only visit the ghetto.

Last week, a high school teacher in Rio Rancho, N.M., was disciplined, and apologized, for telling a black student dressed as Santa Claus, “Don’t you know Santa Claus is white? Why are you wearing that?” The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave.

 

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