Sesame Place Sued For Racial Discrimination Against Kids

Sesame Place, the Sesame Street theme park, is being faced with a lawsuit over alleged racial discrimination toward children.

By Douglas Helm | Published

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A Baltimore family has filed a class action lawsuit against the Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place. The lawsuit alleges racial discrimination from the characters at the theme park. Quinton Burns decided to pursue the lawsuit after seeing a viral video of one of the Sesame Place characters seemingly waving off two young black girls. Burn states that when he took his daughter to Sesame Place, his daughter was similarly ignored by the characters.

Burns’ attorney Malcolm Ruff came forth with a statement about the Sesame Place lawsuit at a press conference, saying “She was ignored amongst a sea of other young white children, who were able to interact, give hugs, high-fives, and love from these characters that are supposed to be a source of safety, a source of equity, a source of kindness.” Sesame Place representatives responded to ABC News, saying they would be reviewing the lawsuit and that they “are committed to deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests.”

The lawsuit will seek to prove that Sesame Place violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is primarily focused on protecting people from racial discrimination when a contract is formed and enforced. The video of the incident with Burns’ daughter will be released in the near future, but you can see the original video that inspired the lawsuit below:

The video shows a character named Rosita giving high-fives to several children during a parade before waving off two young girls and shaking her head. The park initially responded to this video saying that the no gesture was meant to indicate the character was not going to hold the children. The park also said they apologized for the incident, inviting the family back for a meet and greet. They also stated that they would be implementing mandatory bias training for their employees. Since then, other incidents have been posted that allege they had similar experiences in the park.

Sesame Place has been the official theme park for the beloved children’s series Sesame Street since 1980. The park is located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. The show Sesame Street first aired in 1969 and was created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, with characters by Jim Henson. The show is one of the longest-running TV shows of all time, with current episodes still being produced for HBO Max.

The surprising thing about these videos and the lawsuit is the fact that Sesame Street is known for being historically progressive with its diversity and inclusion. Sesame Street was one of the first shows to focus on the inclusion of women and minorities in the 1970s, which was a stark contrast to other TV shows at the time. Sesame Street continued to be progressive in later years, introducing Black Muppet characters, a character that is HIV+, a character with autism, and a homeless character. The educational show hasn’t been afraid to tackle complex issues in the past, so it seems likely that Sesame Place will take this lawsuit very seriously to maintain the inclusivity and commitment to diversity that Sesame Street is known for.

The family is seeking $25 million in damages for the lawsuit against Sesame Place. As mentioned, the family and legal team will be seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. The lawsuit has been filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the parent organization for Sesame Place. Stay tuned for future updates on this lawsuit.