This is one of our favorite Christmas-themed posts from the archive.  We hope you don’t mind the re-post!

White privilege refers to the many, many benefits of being white in a society dominated, both culturally and materially, by other white people. The notion was popularized by Peggy McIntosh in a 1989 an essay titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  One benefit is that most fictional characters, unless otherwise specified (and sometimes even so), are assumed to be white.  Growing up non-white in a white-dominated world, then, means that  most of the mythological figures of your childhood do not look like you in one important way.

Santa, of course, is a fictional figure whose appearance is invented.  Theoretically anyone could be Santa.  Yet, while we may see the occasional non-white Santa at the mall or in novelty holiday stories, he is unbearably and overwhelmingly white in our (google-able) imagination:  The first three pages of a google image search for “Santa”:

For more examples, see all of our posts about white privilege.  Thanks for Martha Pitts as Ms. for this post idea.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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