updated 1:59 AM EST, Tue December 17, 2013video
(CNN) -- Ho ho -- huh?
The family of an
African-American high school student in New Mexico says he's crushed
after a teacher questioned why he was wearing Santa garb during a school
holiday dress-up day last week, CNN affiliate KOAT reported.
The teacher told
Christopher Rougier, a freshman at Cleveland High School, that he
couldn't be Santa because Santa is white, the student's father, Michael,
"He was embarrassed," he told the station.
Now, his son doesn't want anything to do with Christmas.
Michael Rougier said the teacher called his wife to apologize, but that's not enough.
"He needs to be fired,"
Rougier told KOAT. "For him to make a comment like that, there has to be
at a minimum prejudice in him, and we don't have room for that."
Kim Vesely, the director of Rio Rancho Public Schools, released a statement to media about the incident.
"This situation involves a
teacher recently hired by Cleveland High who made -- and admits he made
-- a stupid mistake," the director said. "The remark was inappropriate
and should not have been made. The teacher feels very badly about what
occurred. He self-reported the incident to the principal and has
apologized to the student and to the student's parent. Appropriate
disciplinary action has been taken."
The boy's family has asked that he be moved out of the teacher's class, and the school has complied, Vesely said.
The teacher's remark
came amid something of a dust-up over Santa's skin color after Fox News
Channel picked up on a Slate.com writer's piece questioning the mythical
Writer Aisha Harris, who
is black, wrote about growing up wondering why Santa was depicted as a
white man, and argued for something less definitive: a penguin.
In a widely viewed
segment reacting to Harris' piece, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly said on air:
"And, by the way, for all of you kids watching at home, Santa just is
white, but this person is arguing maybe we should also have a black
Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is. And so, you know, we're just
debating this because someone wrote about it, kids."
Harris said Kelly's comments are part of the reason she felt the need to provoke thought about Santa's race.
"To me, (it) just spoke
to the reason why I wrote the piece, is that there are a lot of people
out there who automatically assume that Santa must be white and there's
no way -- it's laughable that he could be anything else," Harris said
Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources."
"The point I was trying
to make was that I think that we have, the world has changed a lot over
the last 50, 100 years, and Santa Claus is a fictional character,"
"He is nothing like the
original historical figure he was based off of anymore," she said.
"We've kind of evolved him into this magical mythical figure, and for
kids, I think it's important that they don't have to feel necessarily
bogged down that Santa is always white, and that's the way he should
Kelly shot back at her critics, telling them to get a sense of humor.
"Humor is what we try to bring to this show, but that's lost on the humorless," she said Friday on "The Kelly File."
"This would be funny if
it were not so telling about our society, in particular, the knee-jerk
instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst in people,
especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel."
She wasn't motivated by
racial fear or loathing, she said. "In fact, it was something far less
sinister: A lifetime of exposure to the very same commercials, mall
casting calls, and movies Harris references in her piece."
"We continually see St.
Nick as a white man in modern-day America," Kelly continued. "Should
that change? Well, that debate got lost because so many couldn't get
past the fact that I acknowledged, as Harris did, that the most commonly
depicted image of Santa, does, in fact, have white skin."
Former House Speaker
Newt Gingrich, co-host of CNN's Crossfire, said a network makeup artist
told him "Santa Claus is what every child needs him to be, and the
children get to decide Santa Claus, not some TV commentator."
"I thought it was beautifully done," Gingrich said.
At least all adults can agree on one fact: Santa Claus isn't even real. So why the brouhaha?
Bill Donohue, president
of the Catholic League, said the debate is "much ado about nothing"
because there's no doubt Santa is white.
"(St.) Nick was Greek. The last time I checked, Greeks weren't black," Donohue told CNN's Don Lemon on The 11th Hour.
According to the St. Nicholas Center,
which says it's dedicated to "discovering the truth about Santa Claus,"
St. Nicholas was indeed Greek and lived about 1,700 years ago in an
area that is now southern Turkey.
But author Reza Aslan
said he doesn't think many Greek people would be accurately portrayed as
the "rosy-cheeked Santa that we're all used to."
"White has more to do
with sociological, economic, cultural considerations that go far beyond
just the simple color of your skin," Aslan told Lemon.
Amy Holmes, anchor of "The Hot List" at TheBlaze.com, acknowledged that most depictions of Santa feature a white man.
But in addition to being
fictional, "traditionally Santa has also been an obese, alcoholic elf
who lives in the North Pole, who has very questionable labor practices
-- not to mention animal cruelty, lashing those poor reindeer through
the sky all night long."
"This is ridiculous that
we are even having this debate," Holmes said. "Everyone knows that
Santa is your parents. So whatever race they are is the race that Santa