Looking for color in the Christmas season

by Dwayne Hastings, National Correspondent |

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- The lie of a colorblind society is perhaps nowhere more evident than it is in the Christmas season.

Crèches are populated with white baby Jesus figures in homes across America and pale-skinned angels watch from on high (actually from their not-so-high perch on the little wooden structures).

In most shopping malls white Santa stand-ins sit in the big chair, while (mostly) Caucasian helpers scurry about to capture the moment in 5 X 7 glossies.

Goodness. Even the Elf on the Shelf is white. (Although last year he was joined by a darker skinned elf in our home!)

In a recent U.S. News & World Report survey individuals were asked their perspective on the amount of discrimination against African Americans in the U.S., there was a notable disparity between the attitudes of black Americans and white Americans.

Less than half of African Americans are "satisfied with society's treatment of blacks." However, the study revealed 67 percent of white Americans indicated they were "satisfied" with the treatment of black Americans.

When the question was posed on fairness of treatment in the marketplace, only 16 percent of whites said blacks in their community are treated "less fairly" than whites. More than fifty percent of black Americans said they were treated "less fairly" than whites.

It is a matter of perspective. As a white man, I don't see "color" and therefore don't experience discrimination because so much of my world "looks" just like me. I enjoy the blessings of being a part of the majority.

I'm white; I fit in nearly everyone. To a person of color–black, Hispanic, or Asian–there is hardly this luxury.

The reality is that we live in a colorful society and it's all a part of God's design. To reject that fact is to ignore the obvious and thereby ignorantly discriminate against Americans of color. (I use the word "ignorantly" with no malice.)

Since our oldest daughter was born, we've traveled to the mall at Christmas to have her and her siblings sit on Santa's lap. It wasn't an issue for our first five children; they all had roughly the same skin tone as Santa.

But since 2005, when our first adopted daughter came home, the annual Santa pic has some added color. Now none of our three youngest children have asked why Santa looks different than them. They obviously know we don't look like them either and so far they've accepted that the jolly 'ol man who somehow sneaks into our house on Christmas eve, their pediatrician, their dental hygienist and their school teachers don't look like them either.

The fact they recognize the different skin tones was evidenced when on the drawings they brought home from school they had used brown crayons to color their skins.

As the one who chose to bring them into this lily-white community, I have a responsibility to bring some color into their lives and to allow them to be in places where the people around them look like them. I have an obligation to be personally uncomfortable and go to places, if not live, where they can have good role models that look like them.

Nestled in our decidedly white, middle-class neighborhood, I can offer my children friendly neighbors, excellent schools, and a community pool. But I am doing nothing for their identity formation if as a family we don't venture out to places where my wife and I are in the minority.

While I don't know where I will go to find an Asian (or brown-skinned) Santa, I'm grateful the Elf on the Shelf has a colorful cousin (granted 'she' was difficult to find). And that's only the month of December! I can rationalize I am doing and giving far more for my youngest three children than they would have had otherwise and that they'll be just fine growing up in a white bubble but I know I'm lying to myself.

Adoption is about sacrifice. I might not have realized it when we first determined this was the path for us–but that was my own ignorance.