Family sues Sesame Street theme park after racial discrimination allegations

Maryland family says multiple costumed characters ignored their Black daughter and other Black guests

A Maryland family has sued a Sesame Street theme park for $25m alleging that multiple costumed characters ignored their five-year-old Black daughter and other Black guests.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania’s eastern district court and seeks class action status. It argues that Quinton Burns, his daughter and other Black guests were ignored during an 18 June meet-and-greet event at the amusement park by four costumed employees dressed as various Sesame Street characters.

The suit seeks $25m in damages from SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the owner of Sesame Place Philadelphia.

“SeaWorld’s performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers,” read the lawsuit, reported the Associated Press.

Plaintiffs in the suit also want the park to implement mandated cultural sensitivity classes and courses about the history of discrimination, reported NBC news.

It is unclear how many additional people will join the lawsuit.

The lawsuit came after a video from earlier this month showed two young Black girls at Sesame Place Philadelphia being apparently ignored by an employee dressed as the Sesame Street character Rosita.

In the nine-second video, which was widely shared, the employee high-fived a white child and woman but gestured “no” and ignored the Black girls who had their arms outstretched for a high-five.

An additional video showed the employee apparently hugging another white child after ignoring the two girls, reported NBC Philadelphia.

The video caused widespread outrage, with many calling for a boycott of the amusement park and the dismissal of the Rosita performer.

In an initial statement, Sesame Place said the park and its employees support “inclusivity and equality in all forms”. It said the Rosita performer “did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated by the misunderstanding”, adding that the costumes make it difficult for employees to see at lower levels.

A second statement apologized again and added that the park would be “taking action to do better”, including providing inclusivity training for its employees.


Gloria Oladipo

The GuardianTramp

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