Like many Black children whose parents took them to the mall to see Santa, I have more than one picture of me crying as a large, bearded white man in a red suit attempted to calm me down. As an adult, I see similar scenes play out at malls as across the country, and while there are more Black Santas than there were when I was growing up, there still aren’t nearly enough, but the Black Santa Video Call App is making diverse Santas more accessible to children all over the world this holiday season.
The creator of this app, Amber Ravenel, had a similar experience growing up of only seeing Santas who looked nothing like her or her family. “When I grew up there was only one type of Santa, and no matter where I went they always looked the same. Not one looked like me or anyone in my family. As our society becomes more and more diverse, I think it’s crucial that there is diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life, the tech tools we use and that should include Santa Claus as well,” she told HuffPost.
Ravenel noticed that her niece was beginning to internalize the lack of representation of Black Santas when she refused to believe Santa could be another race besides white, so Ravenel got to work to prove to her niece and other children that Black Santa does exist.
The app, which costs $2.99, allows children to see a prerecorded video message from Santa, who is Black. In it, Santa encourages the children to be good kids and wishes them a Merry Christmas. The Christmas message is already recorded in several languages, including Spanish, German, Czech, Chinese, and Turkish. This makes the diverse message of the holiday season even more inclusive.
The video messaging aspect of this app also makes a visit from Santa more accessible and convenient. The app creators clearly realize that most parents are busy and would rather not wait in long lines to snap a picture with Mr. Claus. The app description reads: “Make them smile with a magical video call from Black Santa. A must-have app for parents! Talk to Santa in the comfort of your own homes, without having to face the madness of the malls.”
Santa may be a fictional character that most people stop believing in by the age of 10, but representation is still very important, especially for young children. The way Black children are portrayed in popular media affects society’s attitude towards them and their actual life chances, according to a literature review conducted by The Opportunity Agenda. And a recent study by the Color of Change found that Black people in America are represented poorly in media, which has major policy implications. Having one more positive representation of Black people isn’t negligible — Black Santa isn’t just good for Black kids, Black Santa is great for everybody.
The app is currently only compatible with Apple products and requires iOS 8.0 or later. For those concerned about privacy, the only live part of the app is the child’s video. Santa cannot see the child or whatever is in the background. One user wrote in a review of the app: “I love this idea and wish it existed when [my] kids were small.”
White isn’t and shouldn’t be treated as the default, especially for a formative part of childhood — and especially for Santa Claus. Every child deserves to have role models that look like them and their family members. So yes, Santa can be Black, kids, no matter what Megyn Kelly says.