Three years ago, Chris Kennedy and his family moved to the Lakewood neighborhood of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Every holiday season he has placed a seven-foot-tall Black Santa Claus on his lawn alongside his other decorations.
Kennedy believes the Black Santa Claus decoration is empowering for his five-year-old daughter.
"Our thing is about representation for our daughter, seeing herself in everything and knowing that she can do whatever she wants to do and she's not going to be limited by her color," he told Good Morning America. "The Black Santa is something I wanted my daughter growing up seeing."
"She doesn't even question seeing a white Santa Claus, because we've always told her that's what he looks like in other people's houses," Kennedy added. "For other people, Santa is a representation of them."
However, this year the Black Santa Claus would come to represent more than Kennedy ever intended.
On November 23, he received a letter in the mail from an angry racist demanding he remove the Black Santa Claus from his lawn. The letter claimed to be from Santa Claus and his homeowners' association.
via Chris Kennedy / Facebook
"Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration," the letter reads. "You should try not to deceive children into believing that I am negro. I am a caucasian (white man, to you) and have been for the past 600 years. Your being jealous of my race is no excuse for your dishonesty. Besides that, you are making yourself the laughing stock of the neighborhood. Obviously, your values are not that of the Lakewood area and maybe you should move to a neighborhood out east with the rest of your racist kind."
The letter was accompanied by a photo of Santa Claus making a thumbs-down gesture.
Kennedy was obviously incensed by the letter and so he read it on Facebook Live. He then contacted the local police department and post office to see if they could track down the racist.
Within a few hours, Kennedy was surprised to receive messages of support on Facebook from people he had never met.
A week later, the family began noticing Black Santa decorations around his neighborhood.
"I just started seeing them pop up in the neighborhood," he said. "The bright side of everything was the neighbors' response."
Since the incident, the Kennedy's have received Black Santa Claus gifts and countless messages of support. When people asked how they can help, he told them to donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. The nonprofit offers housing to the families of sick children.
So far, the donations have covered over 200 nights of housing.
The homeowners' association has denied any connection with the letter and is proudly displaying a Black Santa Claus at its headquarters that was donated by a resident.
"To try to falsely blame us and say that those are our views was pretty upsetting," Evan Blake, director of the homeowner's association, said of the racist letter. "We support Chris completely and everyone else in Lakewood too and [adding a Black Santa Claus to the holiday display] is just something else we can do to show our support."
Kennedy is still upset about the letter but has been encouraged by the reaction his family has received after the incident.
"I'm not happy that it happened, but I'm happy that the conversations are being had," added Kennedy.
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