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Licking the Whites-only Christmas Stamp
By: Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA, Washington Correspondent
Originally posted 12/21/2004

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As Black Santa Clauses make special appearances at inner city elementary schools, supermarkets, neighborhoods and parades, the U. S. Postal Service has been distributing a White-only line of Santa postage stamps across America.

“Saint Nicholas on whom the character, Santa Claus, is based, was of Northern European dissent,” asserts Monica Suraci, spokeswoman for the U. S. Postal Service. “These are images of existing glass ornaments that were made in Germany. But certainly it was not an intention to slight any one. Certainly our customers and many people every day petition the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee. They are the deciding body as to which stamps do get issued.”

White-only images can damage the self-esteem of Black children, says Julia Hare, a psychologist and co-founder of the Black Think Tank in San Francisco.

“Too many children already believe that there is a White Jesus, White angels, anything that we hold in high esteem,” she explains. “Those children are later going to grow out of the Santa Claus phase, but after they grow out of it and they’ve only seen a White Santa Claus, they internalize that,” Hare says.

“It would not have hurt the post office if they were going to put out a Santa Claus stamp, to put both out or not to put one out at all. We do know that a White Santa Claus would be scared to go into the ‘hood where most of these kids are anyway. He wouldn’t be caught in there.”

Hare says Asians reject culturally insensitive images of Santa.

“In most of the Chinatowns, the Asians have quietly put nothing in there but Asian Santa Clauses. By doing that, they’re subtly teaching the children,” she observes.

Suraci says she believes the Postal Service’s White Santa images are offset by African-American stamp images sold throughout the year and Black History Month stamps.

“We do naturally, in the stamp distribution, take the multi-cultural interest into consideration,” Suraci says. “We have taken into consideration many, many diverse cultures.”

Mark Saunders, a community relations representative in the stamp department of the U. S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., says the public can influence what stamps are created.

“We get about 50,000 cards and letters a year for stamp ideas,” he says. “No matter what we do, somebody doesn’t like what we come up with.”

The suggestions that become stamps are selected by the 13-member Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee, which is appointed by the Postmaster General Jack Potter.

Stamp subjects must be submitted at least three years in advance of the expected issuance, states the guidelines publicized by the Postal Service.

Other guidelines state: Stamps must primarily feature American or American-related subjects; No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage; No postal item will be issued sooner than 10 years after the individual's death, except in the case of a U. S. president; Only events, persons, and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration; Stamps shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.

Ideas for stamp designs should be submitted to Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, C/O Stamp Development, U. S. Postal Service, 1735 North Lynn St. STE 5013 Arlington, Va. 22209-6432.

Julia Hare says citizens should protest or voice their disagreement when the Postal Service comes up with ideas that are culturally insensitive. Nathan Hare, her sociologist husband and co-founder of the Think Tank, says African-Americans should go beyond protest.

“I think there should be the pushing of more Black heroes and not Blackening White heroes,” he says. “Blackening their heroes, it really honors them in a way because it’s still a variation of what they have done.”


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