Whoopi Goldberg’s New Sweaters Feature Black Santas and Interracial Families
Her latest collab with Zappos shows how much representation matters.
Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t get nearly as much credit as she should for setting fashion trends. Long before natural hair care lines like Carol’s Daughter became household names for black families, Goldberg wore her hair in her signature locks. And as a co-host for ABC’s The View, she’s shown a flair for footwear, rocking the quirkiest shoes Fluevog and American Duchess have to offer. But the EGOT winner also has a weakness for holiday sweaters.
For the second year in a row, she’s launched a line of sweaters for the yuletide season, available from Zappos. Her line isn’t your typical ugly Christmas sweater collection. For one thing, they’re not ugly, and with black Santas, an interracial Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and two Mrs. Clauses, the sweaters are kind of radical. (And cute — there’s also an adorable menorah-octopus!)
Goldberg’s sweaters will most likely antagonize the war-on-Christmas crowd as well the folks who fly into a rage just thinking about a black Kris Kringle. But the collection allows racial groups searching for representation this holiday season the chance to wear gear that speaks to them.
“We’re excited to carry Whoopi’s sweaters that celebrate inclusivity and help people spread the holiday spirit,” Kristin Richmer, Zappos’s senior brand marketing manager, told Racked.
For people such as my mother, who, like Goldberg, is in her 60s, images of black people on holiday cards, sweaters, and decorations didn’t exist when she was a child. Not much had changed when I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s; I remember my mother complaining about the challenge of finding black Christmas angels. As an adult, I’ve had similar difficulties — I once ordered a set of Christmas cards from a charity that provides relief to impoverished people in the Caribbean. When they arrived, I realized that each card featured only white angels, although Haitian artisans had made them. I was furious.
The difficulty people of color have finding representations of themselves isn’t lost on the likely future Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. In an essay for Elle, she wrote about growing up biracial. For the holidays one year, she longed for a set of Mattel dolls called the Heart family. (I had these dolls, too!)
“This perfect nuclear family was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls,” she recalled. “I don’t remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one. On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each color. My dad had taken the sets apart and customized my family.”
Goldberg’s new collection recognizes families like Markle’s. Take the Whoopi Family Santa sweater, which features a family made up of folks with tan, dark brown, and pale skin. And if showcasing a mixed-race family doesn’t seem like a big deal, consider the fact that just last year, State Farm faced backlash for featuring an interracial couple in an ad. In 2013, trolls went after Cheerios for showing a mixed family in a commercial. Then there’s the outrage some conservatives have for any Santa who’s not fair-skinned and rosy-cheeked. Four years ago, Megyn Kelly, then at Fox News, declared that Santa and Jesus were white and that kids needed to know that. (Forensic scientists say otherwise, at least about Jesus.) And last Christmas, the Mall of America’s decision to hire a black Santa Claus was met with vitriol, with some online commenters calling the move “an atrocity.” (Never mind that Basil the Great, the saint dubbed by some as the authentic Santa, was a Middle Eastern Greek who did not resemble the Western version of Mr. Claus.)
Goldberg’s holiday line doesn’t just let kids know that Santa can come in all colors. It sends a message to people routinely marginalized during the holidays that we matter too. I’m not much of a Christmas enthusiast, but a couple of years ago, I bought my first Santa sweater. I liked it because it was fashionably frayed and overstretched. But that sweater featured a white Santa. If I’d known where to buy a cute sweater with a Santa who looked like me, I would have snatched it up instantly.