Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, apologized on Monday after a video showing the Rosalita character ignoring two Black girls at the Sesame Place Philadelphia theme park went viral. The girls' mother posted the video on Instagram Saturday, writing that the person in the Rosita costume ignored her daughters but then hugged a white girl. In its own apology for the apparently racist incident, a Sesame Place Philadelphia spokesperson said staff will undergo bias training.
The video shows the two girls reaching out for a hug or high-five from the Rosita character during a Sesame Place parade. The person in the Rosita costume shakes them off after high-fiving a woman. The two girls turn towards their mother's camera, looking disappointed as Rosita walks away.
#BabyPaige & her cute lil friends went to @SesamePlace this weekend to celebrate Paige's 4th birthday & this is how #SesamePlace treated these beautiful Black children. I'm HOT. pic.twitter.com/wATjpRzUF1— Leslie Mac (@LeslieMac) July 17, 2022
"THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us," the girls' mother captioned the video. "Then when I went to complain about it, they looked at me like I'm crazy. I asked the lady who the character was and I wanted to see a supervisor and she told me SHE DIDNT KNOW." The original post racked up over 615,000 views. The girls' aunt posted the video on Twitter, where it was viewed over 8.8 million times.
"We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it's not OK. We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right," a Sesame Place spokesperson said in a statement to CBS Philadelphia. "We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable, and entertaining experience to our guests. 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."
Sesame Workshop released its own statement, saying they take the incident "very seriously" and that the children's experience was "unacceptable." Sesame Place told the production company there will be "bias training and a thorough review of the ways in which they engage with families and guests."
"As a global nonprofit education organization with a mission to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder," the statement continued. "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. 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."
"While we hate to speculate and consider 'race' as the motivating factor, which would explain the performer's actions, such actions both before and after the young girls reached out only leads us to one conclusion," attorney B'Ivory LaMarr, who is representing the family, told ABC News. He said the theme park's support of inclusivity and equality was "not demonstrated" on Saturday. His office is investigating the incident and will "exercise every legal remedy possible to further protect this family."