Sesame Place, the Philadelphia-area theme park based on the children’s show Sesame Street, has responded to allegations of racism after one of its characters was accused of snubbing two six-year-old Black fans.
In a video posted to Instagram over the weekend by Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, the costumed character of Rosita is seen waving to and high-fiving white onlookers during a parade, but gesturing “no” and turning away from the two young Black girls.
“I will never step foot in @sesameplace ever again,” Brown wrote.
Brown told CBS News that as soon as the girls were ignored she stopped recording and sought out a manager.
“I had to explain to them, ‘You didn’t do anything. It’s OK. I’m going to speak to a manager and find out why it happened,'” she said, adding that the girls were “sad” and “heartbroken.”
Sesame Place responded to the video this week, saying in a statement posted to Instagram that the park stands for “inclusivity and equality in all forms.”
The statement also noted that performers sometimes miss requests for hugs because the costumes they wear make it difficult to see at lower levels.
“The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated by the misunderstanding,” the statement said, adding that the actor’s “no” gesture was directed at someone who repeatedly asked for Rosita to hold their baby for a photo.
In a second statement the park again apologized and promised that it was “taking action to do better.”
Inclusivity training for employees would be one of the measures taken, it said.
Brown, however, told CBS that it wasn’t just a misunderstanding. “No, standing next to me there wasn’t anyone asking them to hold a child or take a photo,” she said.
The family’s lawyer, B’Ivory LaMarr, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the family is appalled and disturbed by the incident and “the injuries propagated to their children.”
Both statements and the video triggered a stark response on social media, which LaMarr said helped shed a light on “the existence of these issues.”
“A lot of African Americans tend to become very passive because we unfortunately are accustomed to dealing with this type of racism in various spaces,” he said.
After the video went viral, many people were quick to admonish the amusement park, with some even calling for a boycott or firing the employee who plays Rosita. Others defended the establishment, saying the incident might have been unintentional.
However, the Instagram account @frobabies has been collecting and posting videos from other Black parents that show similar incidents to Brown’s.
In one video a young Black boy is ignored by the character of Rosita along the parade route.
In another video, Rosita quickly walks past a little Black girl, completely ignoring her despite the girl reaching out to touch the character’s costume.
And in another video, Rosita can be seen doling out a hug to a white child while ignoring a Black girl who was waving to the character.
A fourth video shows another actor aggressively approach a Black toddler, pushing her until she falls to the ground.
“After seeing all these videos I’m sure it was done on purpose,” the anonymous parent shared with @frobabies. “This is supposed to be a safe/friendly environment for children. This is sick to have these people behind them costumes, hurting these kids.”
Sesame Place has not addressed the additional videos shared from the @frobabies account.
— With files from The Associated Press