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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dashing through diversity: How Black Santa products are changing the holiday landscape

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The surge in popularity of Black Santa-themed products in the U.S. during the holidays highlights an evolution in consumer preference that underscores a societal push for cultural inclusivity during the holiday season.

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“Retailers will celebrate diversity if it turns a profit; they will reject it if it threatens their profits,” said Marian University professor Drew Stewart.

“This is a natural evolution of how many Black Americans have celebrated Christmas. Another example of purchasing and displaying images of Black figures in settings that celebrate the holiday, I think about my mother and grandmother’s Black nativity figures that go on the mantle for all to see.”

He said that today’s landscape is an opportunity for partnership.

There are artists and entrepreneurs of color that have existing concepts, art and products that businesses should invite into their retail spaces.

“Why try to do the work from the ground up when it will likely seem opportunistic and insincere anyway? There is a profitability in partnering with a creator of color to raise their profile and voice while jointly benefiting from their creative works,” said Stewart.

Black Santa

Deborah Vassell is the co-founder of Indy Mindy, Inc., a purpose-built pajama brand that focuses on messaging and imagery that encourages, empowers and represents Black children.

In 2020, Vassell went to Walmart looking for pajamas for her nieces. As a Black woman with Black nieces, she wanted pajamas that represent the young girls in her family.
“All I could find was Minnie Mouse pajamas, but not having Black characters to showcase on the apparel kind of threw me off,” said Vassell.

“We don’t give enough credit to subconscious imagery and how it affects our day-to-day. So, imagine how it really is for kids. Black representation is important because if you don’t see a Black doctor on a shirt, you won’t think unconsciously that you could be that.”

Driven to see representation in children’s clothing, she created her brand Indy Mindy, named after one of her nieces.

She went on to meet co-owner Taija Niles, and the duo got to work in 2021.
With images of Black people in hair wraps and even gaps in their teeth on the company’s pieces, Vassell said they are very intentional about showcasing all variations of Blackness for children.

They offer Black Santa pajamas for infants, toddlers and youth on their website IndyMindy.com.

Dashing though diversity

Dr. Demetra Andrews, clinical associate professor of marketing for the Indianapolis Kelley School of Business, said increased focus on “representation” in the media means that increased portrayal among products is expected.

Another factor contributing to the growing support and interest in diverse representations of Santa Claus is the diversity of the U.S population: The 2022 U.S. Census estimates that approximately 14% of the population is Black or African American and 19% is Hispanic or Latino.

“The 40% of the consumer population that are people of color represent a large target market for savvy retailers who seek to provide Christmas décor, including Black Santa Clauses, that would appeal to those shoppers,” said Andrews.

“To that end, some big-box retailers are providing a wider variety of Christmas decorations that reflect white and brown Santa’s, Santa in a wheelchair, and boast a wider variety of colors and patterns than the traditional green/red/white.”

Additionally, various parades and malls have gained attention for including Black and Asian Santa’s in their venues.

She agrees that it is important for manufacturers and resellers to be authentic in their sourcing of ideas and items that reflect people of different races and cultures.

Employing and elevating artists and professionals who are members of a specific race or cultural group and are known for their connection with and understanding of that culture is essential.

“I expect to see an even more diverse selection of Christmas decorations going forward. The Christmas holiday represents one of the highest selling seasons for the retail market. The National Retail Federation estimated that Americans spent approximately $326 on Christmas food and decorations in 2022,” said Andrews.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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