There’s been a lot of talk about Santa’s ethnicity in recent days, and stories like this one will only continue that trend. Multiple reports are coming out of Rio Rancho, New Mexico about a Cleveland High School teacher who made an inappropriate remark to an African American student who was dressed up Santa Claus. According to the student’s father, Michael Rougier, the unnamed teacher told his son Christopher, “Santa Claus is white, what're you doing wearing that?” Oof.
KRQE News 13 reports that, last week, students came to school dressed in Christmas-themed apparel, including Christopher. It was there that the student was approached by a teacher and asked about donning the Santa hat and beard. It wasn’t a proper thing for a teacher to say to an African American student, and it was made even worse by the fact that Christopher is autistic. He took it very hard, and now, as KRQE reports, his parents say it’s ruined Christmas for him. His father Michael told the station, “Christopher was embarrassed; he was ashamed, like he had made a mistake.” KOAT ABC 7 News , in their piece, mentioned that Christopher now wouldn’t even touch the Christmas decorations at home.
Christopher’s father, Michael is livid over the incident. He told KOB Eyewitness News 4, “There's no room for that in the classroom. Whether this teacher felt Christopher may have been wearing this out of context, there's no room for it. There's just no room for it.” He’s annoyed that ethnicity was ever brought up, telling KOAT, “(Santa Claus is) Asian, he's Mexican, he's German, whatever country and whatever society that celebrates Christmas like we do. In our family, you got Miss Claus, who is black and Santa Claus is white. I just want him to be back to the Christopher that was bouncing off the walls about Christmas.”
Aside from his anger over what actually transpired, Mr. Rougier is also angry with how the school handled it. Via KOB, the Rougiers claim that they were only notified by the incident after another parent called them and told them. When he initially called the school, Michael told KOAT, “The principal just hung up the phone on me.”
Now for the school’s side in the matter. A spokesperson for Rio Rancho Public Schools told KRQE, “[The teacher] self-reported the incident to the principal and has apologized to the student and the student’s parent. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.” This has not appeased Mr. Rougier. He told KOAT, “[The teacher] needs to be fired. For him to make a comment like that, there has to be at a minimum, prejudice in him. We don’t have room for that.” In the meantime, Christopher’s parents have removed him from the class.
As of now, the teacher still remains at Cleveland High School. Taking into consideration the fact that he immediately reported the incident himself to the school’s administration makes it seem that this was more of a slip-up on his part, perhaps inspired by recent comedic takes on this Santa race issue in pop culture, rather than outright racism. But, that will remain unclear until he goes on the record, should he decide to. It’s still completely understandable that Mr. Rougier would be so angry over this. As he told KOB, “…I have to fight for my boys.”