Theme parks are supposed to be fun for the whole family, but one family who recently visited Sesame Place, the sesame street-themed park in Philadelphia is crying foul over what appears to be potential racial discrimination by a costumed character. The issue is now being addressed by Sesame Workshop, the company behind the sesame street television show, even though they are not directly responsible for the theme park.
The problem started a few days ago when a video went viral on instagram showing two black girls trying to get a hug, or even just recognition, from sesame street‘s Rosita during a parade. The problem was that the person in the costume didn’t just miss them, but seemed to actively tell them no and walk away.
Although not seen in the video, the accompanying message claims that after denying the two children we see, the person in the costume continued to hug a white child next to them. . It would be one thing if the employee in the costume just missed those kids, there will always be a lot of kids and it can be hard to give them all the attention, but it certainly seems like they are seen and intentionally denied. .
If this was an isolated incident, that might be one thing, but since the initial video went viral, more have come to light. In each case, we see costumed characters ignoring attention-seeking children, and in each case, the children are black. In one case a costumed character literally knocks over a black child. Following online outrage, Sesame Workshop, the parent company that owns sesame streetnow released a statement promising that theme park employees will undergo bias training.
As stated in the statement, Sesame Place is a licensed theme park. The Philadelphia location, where the inciting incident took place, as well as a second new location in San Diego, are owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. However, the link with sesame street will definitely make Sesame Workshop take notice, as it will reflect badly on them as well.
The sesame street the company has never hesitated to take action when it felt that sesame street the name is tarnished. We saw Sesame Workshop sues filmmakers when they felt that the puppets looked too much like theirs. The company also has taken action against unlicensed Big Bird merchandise. Presumably Sesame Workshop has now had a serious discussion with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment about what happened here. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the relationship between the two in the long run.
Sesame Place released its own statement, two in fact, on the incident. According to the first, which tried to explain the situation, the character of Rosita was not saying “no” to these children, but was actually responding to another guest, who wanted the character to hold their child so they could take a Photo. The family who went through this have been given a special opportunity to meet as part of an apology. The second statement is a simpler excuse that also included the statement that training is coming.
sesame street has an unrivaled reputation for children’s television programming and the show has always been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion, certainly any theme park that agrees to take on this name must do the same. Whatever the problem here, I hope it will be dealt with quickly.
While most theme parks have attractions designed for their smallest guests, Sesame Place is unique in that it is a park specifically designed for these guests. Sesame Place is also a Certified Autism Center, the first theme park to hold this designation, and that’s all the more reason why park employees should be extra careful when interacting directly with children at inside the parks.