Sesame Workshop vows bias training after ‘unacceptable’ treatment of Black children
Sesame Workshop has gone into full damage-control mode after a viral video showed a character at a “Sesame Street”-themed amusement park rebuffing two Black children.
The video has raised allegations of racism, prompting the Sesame Place Philadelphia to issue a swift explanation Sunday sharing its side of the story. But the words landed with a thud, prompting a second statement from the park and another from Sesame Worksop, the nonprofit that runs the beloved educational “Sesame Street” program.
Sesame Workshop appeared to side with the two young girls who were shunned by a costumed Rosita character walking in a daytime parade. On Monday, the organization posted a statement on Instagram, saying it has been assured that Sesame Place “will conduct bias training and a thorough review of the ways in which they engage with families and guests.”
But commenters on the post said bias training is not enough, and many called for employees to be fired after more videos showing instances of similar and sometimes worse behavior have surfaced.
Sesame Place called out after Rosita character appears to rebuff two Black children
A ‘Sesame Street’ theme park in Pennsylvania has apologized after a ‘hurt’ mom posted video of a parade character appearing to reject her daughters.
“Sesame Workshop is aware of the recent incident at Sesame Place Philadelphia, which we take very seriously. What these children experienced is unacceptable,” said the statement.
“As a global nonprofit educational organization with a mission to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder, Sesame Workshop has always stood for respect, inclusion and belonging and is committed to providing the highest quality engaging experiences for all children and families. We hold our partners to the same high standards,” the statement continued. “We will continue working with our long-term partner Sesame Place to ensure that appropriate actions are taken and that incidents like this do not happen in the future.”
“Everybody needs to be fired. Picking on children is unacceptable and there’s no amount of ‘bias training’ you can offer an adult, that will change that,” said one comment on the nonprofit’s statement.
“There are multiple videos!!!!!! Why do you guys keep ignoring that. It’s not an isolated situation,” added another.
Meanwhile, the mother of the two children who posted the viral footage continued to get celebrity support — singers Monica and Kelly Rowland, comedian D.L. Hughley and “Abbott Elementary” star Sheryl Lee Ralph among them.
The mother’s clip, which has been shared thousands of times on Instagram, shows her two young daughters reaching out to a performer dressed as Rosita, then being passed up after the character motions “no” in front of the young girls. Although it isn’t shown in the clip, the mother alleged in her video caption that Rosita proceeded to “hug the little white girl” next to them.
The mother, who goes by @__jodiii__ and Jeezy on Instagram, reposted the video and statements of support on Instagram Stories, as several have reached out to her about the incident.
Sesame Place Philadelphia is 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia, in Langhorne, Pa., and opened in 1980. It is owned and operated by Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment under an exclusive license from Sesame Workshop. (A second park, Sesame Place San Diego, opened in Chula Vista in March.)
What it’s like inside Sesame Place San Diego, which is open now with discounted tickets.
Sesame Place Philadelphia said Sunday that character costumes “sometimes make it difficult” for performers “to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from guests.” That first statement said that the “no” hand gesture “was not directed to any specific person,” but was a response “to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted.” The performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is “devastated about the misunderstanding,” the statement said.
The mother shot down that “disrespectful and distasteful” explanation Monday on Instagram Stories and said she felt the statement “was released to save face” and that there had been little contact with park management since then. She repeatedly vowed to repost this video “every day until it is rectified.”
The theme park’s follow-up statement on Monday seemed a little more direct but was still not received well.
“We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not ok,” the company said Monday on Instagram. “We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.”
It continued: “For over 40 years Sesame Place has worked to uphold the values of respect, inclusion and belonging. We are committed to doing a better job making children and families feel special, seen and included when they come to our parks.”
But that didn’t suffice, with hundreds of users flooding the comments section to share their disapproval.
“wow there are so many videos now. i can’t imagine the harm you caused countless children. horrific,” wrote one.
“One apology after another… should have taken accountability from the start instead of trying to save face,” added another.
“Gaslighting behavior,” alleged another.
“MULTIPLE families. Training isn’t going to fix this,” wrote another user.
The mother has not appeared to comment on the new statements from Sesame Workshop or Sesame Place Philadelphia.
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