Over the past few days, I have been outraged by the Sesame Place disaster. I’m not only outraged by what has happened to these young children, but am outraged by the Sesame Place response.
It is sad when any character at a theme park has to rush off to another location leaving children behind, or simply misses a child. It happens. However, seeing a character deliberately ignore children based on the color of their skin is wretched.
Like millions of Americans this week, I watched a video of two beautiful, little Black girls be ignored at a theme park by a character they are growing up with, a character that is helping to shape their lives, a character they clearly love and hold dear, all while the little girls innocently wear their Sesame Street backpacks. These children do not understand the character that rejected them at the theme park was just a terribly flawed person dressed in costume. All these children see is she got a high five, she got a hug, and I was rejected. Now, mothers and fathers have to console…reassure…and explain what has happened at the end of what should have been a joyous day. “This Rosita” should have been fired. I’ll say this Rosita knowing that different people will dress as this character at different times.
The video shows this Rosita waving off the two girls and turning away. In response to the video, Sesame Place stated that, “The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding.” Did they really say Rosita is devastated? This is laughable. No, those children, their parents, the public are devastated. Sesame Place attempts to write this off as Rosita signaling “no” to people in the crowd requesting that Rosita hold their child for a photo. Wrong response Sesame Place. Just…wrong response.
This Rosita’s actions were abhorrent. Yet, Sesame Place yours were more so. Now, Sesame Place, you should face the anger of millions of Americans because of the way you handled the situation! Or better put, chose not to handle it. Your initial response signals that you excuse and condone such discriminatory behavior. The subsequent apology, acknowledgment that “it’s not OK,” and announcement of employee training sends the signal that you are insincere and only changing your tune for the benefit of Sesame Place’s business interests.
I do not presume to know the true character of the people at the top of the Sesame Place hierarchy. However, if your business truly abhors discrimination in any form, the best response when something happens is to own it and rapidly address it. You’ll get more respect and probably a lot less backlash.
No one expects Sesame Place, or any other business, to be perfect. Sometimes the wrong people will get past the application and hiring process and enter the building starting fires. When that happens, lies and cover ups only add fuel to the flames. Sesame Place, and other businesses, your responsibility is to douse the flames by taking the appropriate actions.
For any reputable business, it does not serve your business interests to protect employees that show – through their discrimination against others – that they have very little concern for those business interests.
In Plaintiff’s employment law, many employees end up in our office because they work with someone like this Rosita and their employer ignores the discriminatory behavior or worse yet tries to cover it up. If you work with someone like this Rosita who has discriminated against you, or your employer has retaliated against you for complaining about discriminatory treatment you have been subjected to, contact an employment lawyer right away.
Businesses need to take better care because sometimes the difference between a resolution and a revolution is the response.