I did a lot of babysitting as soon as I hit my teens. From early October to December 24, I exploited the fiction of Santa Claus as much as possible. While I understand many people’s animosity and hesitation with this concept, it made my babysitting days so much easier. You can really work that fiction to get kids to behave. A recent lecture by Dr. Nteri Nelson filmed by Paul Gibson, however, has helped me to reach deeper understandings of the ancestral connections that have drawn black folk to Christianity, celebrations of Christmas, and Santa Claus and other holiday emblems.
Given the African American draw to Christmas and our Black Buying Power, it seems like the endless Christmas animations, the Hallmark movies with their messages about love/family/rebirth, the window displays, the Santa Claus images and look-alikes, the flying angels everywhere, the traditional children’s stories, and all this Christmas paraphernalia wouldn’t all be so damn white. Last year, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, African Americans spent more time browsing online for toys than any other group. It seems like a good capitalist would capitalize on all that and do a full-blown black-up of all children’s marketing. But capitalism is not logical and it is never just about making money.
I recently watched the movie, The Perfect Holiday, where Morris Chestnut was a shopping mall Santa who enchanted three little kids and their mother (played by Gabrielle Union; the added bonus as Terrence Howard as a rat, evil dwarf, etc). Morris Chestnut is one Santa no one would need to make me believe in! Clearly, capitalists don’t care about black people’s dollars; otherwise we’d see family movies like this everywhere. Instead, this year’s blockbuster will be a black man dressing up as a black woman who then dresses up as Santa (i.e., Madea) for a 2013 Christmas Coon Extravaganza. The images that we see and don’t see of black people during these holidays are not motivated by the economics of neoliberalism alone; these economics are nested quite snugly with maintaining a white lens and a white world, a reality 100s of years in the making given the history Dr. Nelson provides us. Like I said, if it was all about money, BLACK WOMEN would be the center of all marketing campaigns since we are the ones with the most buying power. You know something deep is going on when NO ONE tells you this. I am not suggesting that buying power and wealth are the same thing and that black women and communities have wealth in the United States. It just seems telling to me that American consumerism functions according to a logic that deliberately omits black faces but exploits their cultures and dollars.
Outside of home, friends, and family, the many white intellectuals, scholars, teachers, and so-called “educated” people who I work with still won’t get— don’t want to get— why black folk focus so much time and energy on constructing positive images of ourselves and releasing all the negative. Truth is, we don’t have time to worry about these people who don’t want to understand this. They just aren’t worth it. This December, however, I am doing what I often do when I am looking for images and concepts that DON’T destroy black children and families when a dominant white image/mindset completely saturates every turn you make: I turn to African American children’s literature. Beginning with this year’s Cyber Monday, this black woman is spending her ancestral time/energy and her Black Buying Power looking for African American children’s literature that offers real and soul-sustaining Black lenses and belief systems about this time of year. I’ll share my favorites in the coming days and weeks.