When the Mall of America hired Larry Jefferson—an African-American man—to portray Santa Claus, its leadership predicted backlash. They were right.
Almost immediately, MOA social media users voiced their opinions, Many were harsh. The online dialogue became so threatening, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reportedly shut off its comments section on the story.
Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America’s first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!https://t.co/BQVm24DH6y
— Scott Gillespie (@stribgillespie) December 2, 2016
Even though much of the racist rhetoric captured headlines, most of the online comments were positive and support Jefferson and MOA.
Some made fun of the backlash:
Watching people meltdown over a Black Santa in the Mall of America. “Santa is white!” Well, in our internment camp he was Asian. So there.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 3, 2016
santa can’t be black but our president can be orange? ok…
— jas (@avocadomami_) December 4, 2016
— Carlos Rosales-Silva (@RosalesSilva) December 3, 2016
All the love and prayers go out to Larry Jefferson. Santa can be *anybody* y’all. https://t.co/UQJL8TjI58
— Caroling Along 🔔🎄 (@SoCalRamen) December 2, 2016
I do not wanna be in the same room as the people who are offended by black santa when they find out that Jesus was a middle eastern refugee
— Rochelle (@rochelleasquith) December 4, 2016
“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” Jefferson told Star Tribune reporters. “[Santa represents] a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys.”
That’s tough to argue.
In Sweden, an advertisement for retailer Åhléns created some backlash of its own. In the questionable ad, a child of undetermined gender is dressed as a Lucia. It sparked similar controversy in that country, with an influx of negative and positive comments.