‘Santa Claus Is A White Man’ by John Henrik Clarke

Santa Claus Is A White Man by John Henrik Clarke, 1939

The magic trick:

Dispensing with subtlety in order to make a powerful point about race

This story is not subtle. Everything flows in one direction. The boy is the picture of angelic innocence. The mob is the worst of humanity. But it serves to teach an important lesson. By taking an icon of kindness and warmth – Santa Claus – and making him the picture of racist evil, the story reminds us that traditional American Christmas trappings are a privilege. And that’s quite a trick on Clarke’s part.

The selection:

The little black boy pushed his hand deeper into his pocket and clutched his quarter frantically. He looked about the outskirts of the crowd for a sympathetic adult face. He saw only the fat, sloppy-looking white man in the bedraggled Santa Claus suit that he had passed a moment earlier. This strange, cotton-bearded apparition was shoving his way now through the cluster of people, shifting his huge body along in gawky, poorly timed strides like a person cursed with a subnormal mentality.

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