NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — “I am trying to be as nice as I can in this very moment because I am actually filled with rage.”
Chris Kennedy’s emotional Facebook Live address, delivered only moments after receiving a racist letter on Nov. 23 signed “Santa Claus,” captured the attention – and hearts – of more than the online community.
The letter, which purported to have connections to Kennedy’s North Little Rock neighborhood association, took exception to his family’s use of an inflatable Black Santa Claus in their front yard.
“Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration,” the letter stated. “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.”
Kennedy, 33, noted in his post that this is the third year that his family has erected the 7-foot display in their front yard and, until now, it has never caused any problems. He also shared an image of a white Santa with two thumbs down that accompanied the “disturbing” letter and the label affixed to the front of the envelope that resembled the Lakewood Property Owners Association’s logo.
Evan Blake, executive director of the association, confirmed to CNN that the organization had nothing to do with the letter.
Blake also visited the Kennedys personally to denounce the contents and sentiment of the letter, assuring them that “they are valued members of the Lakewood community,” The Washington Post reported.
Kennedy told KLTV that he was not prepared for the outpouring of support his impromptu video post generated.
KINDNESS WINS! ALWAYS!— 𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚊 𝙰. 𝙷𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚜 (@LauraHarrisNBC5) December 9, 2020
Chris Kennedy put a Black Santa on his lawn. When he got a racist note, his neighbors came together to prove kindness will win. ALWAYS!https://t.co/8Yu5LL4SqJ
“I posted the video around 2:15 p.m. I was back home around 3:30 p.m. By 4 o’clock, people were driving by and honking. A local baker had brought us cookies. Later that night, someone dropped off a sign that said ‘love your neighbor.’ The next day, the local news had picked it up. The response has been overwhelming,” Kennedy told the TV station.
And then, his actual neighbors got involved.
One by one, Black Santas appeared on Lakewood lawn after Lakewood lawn.
“We were all pretty concerned about it, and we decided it would be poetic for everyone to get Black Santas,” 70-year-old Chip Welch, who was the first neighbor to put a Black Santa on his front lawn after seeing the Kennedys’ story on a community bulletin board, told the Post.
“(The letter) was undeserved. It was un-Christmas, and hopefully, it was not reflective of Lakewood and certainly not reflective of the kind of country I want to live in,” said Welch, who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife for 20 years.
Paula Jones, who sits on the neighborhood association’s board of directors, lives across the street from Welch and heard about the incident “right when the letter came in.”
“My first reaction was, ‘Where can I get one?’” Jones told the Post.
Will Jones led the charge in rounding up our NLR neighbors to support Chris Kennedy. Will & his wife, Paula, are constantly leading by example. Wishing Chris Kennedy & his family a very Merry Christmas! Proud our NLR community is choosing love over hate! https://t.co/Jp1bZPZH3j— Christen Pitts (@christen_pitts) December 9, 2020
Apparently, she was not alone, and many retailers are now running low on inflatable Black Santas because of the uptick in popularity, the Post reported.
Ben Keller, a neighbor of the Kennedys whose 2-year-old is Black, told the Post that his son is “absolutely thrilled to see some Santas that reflect back to him.”
Click here to read the full Post report, hear more stories from the Kennedys’ neighbors and see – in photos – how one letter transformed hatred into pure holiday cheer.
“At the end of the day, what was meant for evil was flipped for good,” Kennedy told the Post. “We are showing that we are truly better together and united as one.”
Cox Media Group