In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, Christopher Rougier, a ninth grader at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, came to school dressed as Santa Claus. Students had been told that they could dress up as Santa, elves or a reindeer. But on seeing Christopher, who is African-American and on the autism spectrum, his teacher allegedly told him that he had no business being Santa Claus.
“Christopher, don’t you know Santa Claus is white? Why are you wearing that?” the teacher said, according to KOB Eyewitness News.
A spokesperson for the Rio Rancho School District told WIBW that the unnamed teacher self-reported his racist remarks and has been disciplined for his “dumb” mistake. The teacher has also reportedly apologized to Christopher’s family.
While the teacher is still employed at Cleveland High School, he is no longer Christopher’s teacher. Christopher’s parents made sure to have their son removed from the teacher’s classroom.
The Rougiers only found out about the teacher’s racist remark because another parent told them. That is, school district officials did not themselves inform Christopher’s family about the teacher’s racist behavior.
“This is racial in its context and that’s my issue right now. I don’t believe that this man needs to be teaching children. My children cannot fight for themselves. I’m that person that has to do it. I will use any and all tools necessary at my disposal to do that.”
The teacher’s thoughtless and cruel remark are having real repercussions for Christopher. The whole Christmas holiday season seems to have gone sour for the ninth grader. While he usually enjoys decorating the Christmas tree, this past Sunday, Christopher did not want to, Rougier says. Christopher also has not at all wanted to wear his Santa costume anymore.
Given that the teacher has shown such a discriminatory attitude towards Christopher, Rougier asks how might he be “affecting students, studies, grading habits, trending toward Caucasian kids?” The teacher has made what was clearly a racist remark. Parents, and not only the Rougiers, need to know what kind of disciplinary action this teacher faced, what he is teaching now and how the school district is addressing his racist behavior. So far, the school district has not provided information about any of this.
In view of Christopher being on the autism spectrum, the teacher’s careless remark could have even more long-term consequences. The negative attention and ridicule directed toward the ninth grader is exactly the sort of thing that an autistic student — who may very well be be extra-anxious about his interactions with other students and unsure of himself socially — in particular does not need. While the teacher does not seem to be an appropriate instructor for Christopher, it is unfortunate that the ninth grader has had to experience the disruption of changing teachers and classrooms in the middle of the school year, all because of someone else’s unthinking act.
Fox News’ Megyn Kelly has rightfully faced a barrage of criticism after saying last week that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white. She has tried to pass off her inflammatory remarks as all a joke or rather an “off-hand jest.” The embarrassment and sheer loss of holiday spirit that Christopher has experienced in the past few days more than attest to why Kelly needs to apologize for her racist remarks.
Perhaps Kelly was just making a random remark. But when someone’s words get as much attention as hers can and did, it is past time for her to accept the consequences of what she says and to consider what lasting damage her racist comments inflict. If a teacher at Cleveland High School hadn’t done this, one ninth-grader in New Mexico would still have his holiday spirit rather than being despondent and ashamed. Imagine what effect someone on the national stage can have.
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