At a recent meet-and-greet, Saunders Claus – one of the first Black Santas to ever appear at a Disney park in the United States — chatted with a man who was quickly overcome with emotion, reports Huffington Post.
“All he wanted to do was see me. He’d waited 35 years to see a Santa that looked like him,” said Claus, who asked HuffPost to use his professional Santa name. “The emotions he expressed were just very powerful and very Christmas-spirit. When I asked what he wanted for Christmas, he told me that I had already given it to him.”
Claus told HuffPost that he, to his knowledge, is one of four Black men portraying Santa at Disney’s U.S. theme parks this year. (A Disney spokesperson said Santa Claus will reflect the diversity of the surrounding communities at Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, but did not give specifics.)
At the same time, a slew of new picture books for kids, such as “The Real Santa,” by Nancy Redd, and “Santa In the City,” by Tiffany Jackson, feature Black Santas.
As the 2021 Christmas season picks up steam, it looks like this is the year that Black Santa might finally go mainstream, giving children the gift of representation.
“I don’t think magical creatures should be limited in expression,” Redd said. “And I think that the world is finally starting to agree.”
Representation in children’s books, kids’ media, their toys and even Santa is important because that’s how many kids learn about themselves and the world around them. Developmental experts point out that racial biases and beliefs are effectively “set” by the time kids are tweens, which means there’s a relatively short window to teach children about diversity.