Please forgive me, for I have sinned.
The other night, I participated in an act of personal fraudulence and general unwokeness that has caused me great shame as a black man generally and a writer here specifically. We’ve had a good run here, you and I, over the past couple of years, sharing humorous tomes of blackness and mutually participating in one of the best inside jokes the internet has to offer in the form of Very Smart Brothas. But alas, I fear that my latest offense to the cause of the woke may have been a step too far for even you, dear reader, to let slide.
I stand before you today like Jimmy Swaggart to his congregation and ask you for your mercy. I beg you for your understanding. My plea is that you hear me out and allow me to continue to stay in your woke graces henceforth and forever more while you concurrently accept my deepest apologies for my offense. I am so, so very sorry.
The other night, I took my children to see Santa Claus.
Before we get too far into the offense, let me start off by explaining how we got here. You see, I hate Christmas. Like, it’s genuinely my least favorite time of year. I hate the cold, I hate the songs, I hate the manufactured generosity that compels me to buy shit for people I don’t really care about, I hate eggnog (because eggnog is basically Satan’s snot), and I hate the very special holiday episodes of TV shows that are topical now but look stupid running in the middle of summer when they go into syndication. I hate it all.
My wife, on the other hand, is a bona fide holiday junkie. She eats this Christmas shit up. She decorates the house, bakes the cookies, plays the music, wraps the presents, goes to the parties and wears the fucking sweaters. She’s all in with the cult of Christmas freaks who come around once a year being all merry and shit when you wish they’d all go the holly-jolly hell away. I personally can’t stand it, but there was nothing about Christmas in the wedding vows, so technically, she’s within her rights.
But as they say, opposites attract, and over the years we’ve worked through our Christmas differences. She decks the halls and I go fa-la-la along with it.
Since we’ve had kids, I’ve softened my once hardline holiday stance. Children do that with a lot of things, but with Christmas, it’s a big deal because kids really give you context as to why the holiday is so special. Toys. For those of us in the throes of the juvenile playthings-industrial complex, Christmas is basically the one time of year that you know you’re gonna spend a fuckton of money, but it’s also a carrot you can dangle over your children throughout the rest of the year to get them to do things like wash the dishes, clean their rooms and stop trying to stab their sister. That’s all good, but the JPIC also comes with a problematic mascot: Santa Claus.
I’m kinda in a complicated relationship with Santa Claus. On the one hand, I work like a dog all year long to buy the presents that go under the Christmas tree. If you know me, you know I take a certain degree of pride in the work I do, and I especially enjoy sharing the fruits of my labor with my family. I genuinely enjoy seeing them happy, so I bust my ass to make sure I can provide the kind of happiness that money can, in fact, buy.
That said, it’s especially troubling to me that, after all the work I’ve done to make sure everyone gets exactly what they wanted for Christmas, I’m supposed to cede the credit to some random fat white dude who a) didn’t do shit and 2) doesn’t even exist. As a former barbershop and corner-store Five Percenter, I know this is a clear violation of the “show and prove” as well as the “mystery god” postulations. By accepting Santa Claus into our family, I’m personally undermining the wokeness that I’m trying to foster in our home by allowing a false avatar of Eurocentric benevolence to occupy a position of significance and respect, superseding me as a parent in delivering to my children that which they have asked for.
But on Monday night, there we were: at Macy’s (see: Marshall Field’s in Chicago) in front of the false temple that is Santaland, preparing to codify my 5-year-old’s already cultish beliefs while offering a new worshipper to the red-suited charlatan in the form of my 11-month-old. As we approached the bearded fraud, I could feel the weight of all of the late-night HBCU dorm conversations, Brand Nubian lyrics and DeRay Mckesson tweets hanging around my neck as if to offer me one last moment to grab my children, turn away and run from that den of jolly chicanery. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. It just wasn’t meant to be.
I froze and, in a moment for which I shall repent eternally, I sat my little beautiful girl on that stranger’s lap, asked her to gaze deeply into his eyes and then said: “Tell Santa that you’ve been a good girl this year so he’ll bring you all the toys that you want.”
In that moment, I had given in to (borrowing the words of the apostle Damon Young) Darth Santa.
We took pictures. We ate dinner. We went home. All the while I knew that, even though I was surrounded by a happy family, I had given up so much of myself that evening.
If there’s any lesson to be learned here, it’s that Kwanzaa really needs a mascot.