Reasons Black Families Avoid Playing Elf on the Shelf

Ever since Halloween passed, I’ve been in full Christmas mode, decorating the house and reminding the children of Santa’s impending arrival. This is the first time in ages that I’ve felt truly prepared for Christmas, securing everything on my kids’ wish list well in time. However, post-Thanksgiving days always come as a surprise when Santa’s elves supposedly start their journey from the North Pole. Although I relish the holiday season, I openly admit that reasons black families avoid playing elf on the shelf resonates with me, reflecting my personal disinterest in this particular tradition.

In 2005, when time was simpler, the Elf on the Shelf concept was born. It would be good if people could still have private moments at home without having to explain themselves to the world. Over a decade passed before the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Elf found a female partner, and when she did, the only distinguishing features were the Elf’s newfound rosier cheeks, lipstick, and earrings. Which, by the way, can be worn by boys as well. It didn’t appear like the Elf on the Shelf campaign was created with people of color in mind.

Refusing Elf on the Shelf Because It’s Racist

Considering that Elf on the Shelf released male and female “dark tone” dolls only four years ago, I shudder to think what my skin tone would be classified as in a business lineup. I can’t say Whether the corporation is uneducated or doesn’t care to be inclusive at this point, I can’t say. In either case, I’m not interested in parting with my cash.

Putting aside the Elf’s exclusive nature for a moment, I’ll be the one to say it: The elf concept is creepy. Dolls are unsettling enough without the added element of child surveillance, and I’m not even a pedophile (yes, fear of dolls is a real thing). Hollywood has given us enough examples to remember that talking dolls are terrifying, from Chucky and Talky Tina in The Twilight Zone to Annabelle.

Why would I want my kid to think that a doll is “watching them” in our house, reports back to Santa every night, and then moves to a new position every morning? That seems like the plot of a horror movie, and we all know how good Black people are at crafting scary movies.

We are not interested in playing with dolls and spirits because we were raised in a Christian, African-American household. Maria Davis-Pierre, a mother of three from West Palm Beach, Florida, says, “It’s creepy—having an elf watch my kids make sure they are being good.” The explanation that they must not touch it or that we must constantly relocate it bothers me. We greatly prefer the reindeer with a better history and the ability for my children to pet them.

Santa is supposed to be able to see you whether you’re asleep or awake, so he doesn’t need any spooky little elves. “Although I recognize that many families view this only as a fun activity, it is important to consider the implications it sends to youngsters about government surveillance,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. To me, a good parent instills in their children the moral fortitude to do the right thing regardless of who is watching from the North Pole.

However, I believe the general view among the Black parents I know is straightforward: Ain’t nobody got time for that! The Elf is a burden on an already heavy holiday mental load, what with inflation, post-pandemic trauma, and a weak job market.

There is already too much for parents to deal with.

Carolyn Daley has expressed confusion over the significance of this custom. It lacks any nuance or connection to the genuine essence of Christmas. Santa Claus already exists. Daley doesn’t feel the need to compete with other parents over who has the naughtiest Elf because she is a working mother of color. “I can’t afford to do it right now. I’d rather devote my time and effort to other memory-making pursuits,” she explains.

While the Elf on the Shelf concept began as a simple Christmas tale, its popularity on sites like Pinterest and social media has made it nearly impossible to simply enjoy the story while relocating the Elf about the House. If the book “1300 Elf on the Shelf Ideas” overwhelms you, you shouldn’t get into the whole elf thing. But kudos to the parents who have mastered the Pinterest look.

As with any parenting decision, you should do what’s best for your kids. I, for one, intend to keep the elves out of my home.

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