There’s a viral video, which we’re sure you’ve seen by now, showing costumed Sesame Street character, Rosita, appearing to ignore two young Black girls during a parade at Sesame Place in Philadelphia after acknowledging and high-fiving a few white children.
Posted on Instagram July 16 by Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, the video shows Rosita gesturing “no” and walking away from the two girls, who had their arms outstretched for a hug. Social media users on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms sounded off after the original video was posted, with some sharing their outrage at what the video captured and others sharing other children’s experiences at Sesame Place.
Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump also has joined the girls’ family in their call for Sesame Place and parent company SeaWorld to do better, according to an ABC NY report.
“That character may have ignored them, but we will never ignore our Black children. They have every right to be given the full consideration and respect of any other child,” Crump said at a press conference the family held outside Sesame Workshop in New York City Wednesday. “Will SeaWorld take advantage of the moment to make it a teachable moment not just with their words but with their actions?”
Another video appeared to show another character pushing a small Black child at a Sesame Place theme park, while yet another showed a boy being bypassed on a parade route.
Kelly Rowland expressed her frustrations in an Instagram post, sharing that the “whole parade would have been in flames” if this happened to one of her children. Whoopi Goldberg also discussed the issue on a recent episode of The View, sharing how she contacted them about the incident.
“And if you think they did not catch hell for what was done, it’s crazy. The two little girls are six-year-olds, they are cousins, and Rosita was their favorite character,” she told her co-hosts.
“Well, I’ll tell you why that’s happened because I talked to the people at Sesame Street. Okay. Because I work with them a lot, and I said, ‘What the hell? And basically, they said, ‘Listen. We’re all over this because our characters — the children must feel like these characters are the characters they expect them to be. So, we’re all over this,” Goldberg said, according to a Yahoo! News report. “So I suspect a lot of what they’re going to be doing, all the diversity training, all that stuff, is coming from Sesame Workshop saying, ‘Oh no. Whoever is dealing with these characters, they’re going to have the information they need. We’re sorry we have to talk to you like this, but clearly, you need to understand you can’t do that for kids.'”
The park issued an apology on their Instagram handle as well as on Twitter, sharing how they will conduct trainings to prevent situations like this from happening again. The initial apology was not well received on social media.
Sesame Place Park President and General Manager Cathy Valeriano told local news affiliate WPVI-TV in Philadelphia she was aware of the Saturday afternoon protests. She said the performer who played Rosita has not worked since that night. It is unclear whether the employee has been fired or not.
“We could have been more thoughtful in our initial statement and we own that going forward,” Valeriano said, according to WPVI TV. “We’re open for a meeting if we need to have a meeting. Absolutely, I understand emotions are raw but it’s something that we internally need to learn and grow from(.) It’s not something we’re going to fix overnight.”
The developments around the situation have raised the question: If you need training to be respectful and compassionate, especially to children, is this the job for you?
Let’s do better, people.
Ty Cole is a reporter based in New York and Los Angeles who covers entertainment, sports, lifestyle, tech, and everything in between. Follow him on Twitter, @IamTyCole, for more.
Mashable weekend editor Chance Townsend contributed to this column.