Employees at the Sesame Place children’s theme park are being accused of racism after a number of videos allegedly showing characters ignoring black children went viral.
The wave of accusations began when an outraged mother posted a video from a recent trip to the Philadelphia theme park.
In the nine-second video, an employee dressed in a “Rosita” costume can be seen marching alongside other characters in a park parade. Two black girls — the daughter and niece of the woman who posted the clip — try to get Rosita’s attention for a hug, but fail to do so as the character shakes its head “no” and passes them by.
The video quickly went viral, prompting social media users to post other videos they believed showed Sesame Place characters engaging in racial discrimination. As the videos — all of which ran under fifteen seconds — piled up, calls grew to fire the offending employees and boycott the supposedly racist theme park.
In response, Sesame Place released a statement claiming that the Rosita character from the original video hadn’t seen the two black girls. The company also clarified that the character was shaking its head “no” to people asking the performer to hold their child for a photo.
“The performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed any specific person, rather, it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo op, which is not permitted,” the company said.
“The Rosita performer did not specifically ignore the girls and is devastated about the situation,” the company added.
Undeterred by the company’s statement, the mother of one of the ignored girls is threatening a racial discrimination lawsuit against the theme park.
“Today is a day of accountability,” B’Ivory LaMarr, the family’s attorney, told reporters Wednesday. “What has taken place at Sesame Place this past Saturday, and the months and years prior, is utterly disgusting and unacceptable.”
While the theme park denies that they have ever engaged in discrimination, employees will now be required to undergo “racial bias training,” according to a statement from the company’s ownership.