When Sesame Place is racist, what's left?

I spent my childhood at Sesame Place. It was the first place I saw a disabled worker. It was the first place my parents let me wait...



I spent my childhood at Sesame Place.

It was the first place I saw a disabled worker. It was the first place my parents let me wait in line unsupervised. It was the last trip with my parents before their divorce. I still have pictures of me and Big Bird.

If you were born in the 70s in America and you are black, there are two things I know about you for sure: Hip-hop and “Sesame Street” raised you. Probably more “Sesame Street” than hip-hop, but you get the idea.

“Sesame Street” wasn’t just inclusive, it was jaw-dropping. They were life-size characters talking about real issues. It was catchy tunes that weren’t nursery rhymes. Once, during a heated argument between friends induced by cannabis, I actually assumed that if the characters of “Sesame Street” were a hip-hop group, they would be NWA because that’s how the series was influential and groundbreaking. Oscar the Grouch wasn’t just a puppet, he was a puppet with an attitude.

After 50 years in television, The Hollywood Reporter called ‘Sesame Street’ “most influential show of all time” –– they weren’t wrong.

I was 4 years old when Sesame Place opened on July 30, 1980 in Philadelphia, a few hours from my hometown of Washington, DC. I swear we were there every summer until we were old enough to do the big kid rides at Kings Dominion.

There are only a few things in life that have been close to my heart since childhood:

My yellow and black Huffy bike that my dad bought from Toys ‘R’ Us and assembled in the basement of my youth.

My first pair of Nikes that I got with my own money.

My sequined socks from the “Thriller” years.

And everything Sesame Place, so far.

If there was one place that I think would be devoid of systemic racism, it would be where “Sesame Street” ends. But, alas, it is not, or at least not as it appears.

On Monday, damning footage revealed two beautiful black girls languishing in hopes of getting a high-five or maybe even a hug from “Sesame Street” character Rosita. If you don’t know Rosita, she’s the Bad Bunny of Sesame Place. (Bad Bunny isn’t a Sesame Street character, he’s a multi-platinum entertainer…you’re probably thinking of Bugs Bunny, who’s a whole different one…forget it.) She’s not just the first bilingual regular on the wildly popular show of my youth, but it’s arguably the hottest thing since Elmo.

She’s the BeyoncĂ© of these Sesame Streets.

So you can imagine the cousins’ excitement at not only the opportunity to see her, but also the jubilation of getting a possible high-five from the Rihanna of Sesame Place. The video shows the two children waiting patiently as Rosita works the crowd. She high-fives a few people, then waves to others because, of course, she does, and then, in her most Mariah Carey-ish way, she stares at the two beautiful little black faces; one of whose arms was outstretched for a hug, and she shakes his hand no, refuses to give them a high-five, and walks away.

The children looked like they had been punched in the stomach. The children’s mother was so upset that she abruptly ended the recording and was reportedly unable to catch former diva Rosita hugging the white child next to the two girls.

The mother of one of the children posted the video on her Instagram page and it exploded:

I’m not one to rush to judgment as I believe there are 100 sides to a story, but it’s hard to deny the sassy smell that Rosita gives off. Apparently, Rosita let the celebrity influence go to her puppet head.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen such a thing.

After my mother retired from teaching, she took a job as Santa’s helper at the mall. She was really the director of the operation, but we liked to call her Santa’s helper or the head elf and she hated it but she loved her job – at least she loved it when she started. Overtime, which started as a job to pass the time, began to take its toll on him. She would come home upset, call me and say things like, “I’m getting sick of Santa’s ass!” Once my wife and I stopped by her house to see how things were going and saw Santa being escorted out of the photo area by the police. We thought he had done something wrong. Turns out Santa was so popular that if he wasn’t escorted by the police through the mall, he wouldn’t be able to make it to the small room at the back of the mall for lunch.

So I know the mythical creatures that receive true love. I also know puppet heads that get too big for their costumes. So Twitter has been on Sesame’s Place trying to figure out why and how they let this all happen in a place that’s supposed to be magical, but is starting to look really common.

Sesame Place issued an apology saying it would do better:

But Twitter noted that might not be possible, as the blood of American racism runs through Ernie and Bert’s veins. Well, I don’t know if it goes through Ernie’s, but an actor playing Bert was shown on camera punching a black child in the face.

Other examples of this behavior have surfaced on Twitter.

I don’t know who this purple character is, but this puppet figured he should walk up to a black kid like they were about to have a breakdance fight and punch her until she falls to the ground.

The family of the girls shunned by Rosita has hired a lawyer. Sesame Place is going to hold a workshop on how not to be racist and America is moving further and further away from the country we want to be. If Sesame Place can’t be inclusive, I’m not sure there’s much left to believe in. All I thought about when I saw all the little black kids being abused by puppets they love was, “Does Big Bird know about this?” ?”

Surely not the kind of place Big Bird would represent. But I do know one thing: Until it’s done right on all fronts, my little black kids won’t come near this cesspool of hate disguised as an amusement park. My job as a father is to protect them from as much disappointment as possible. And I never thought that would one day mean the only place from my childhood that I still remember as my home.



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Newsrust - US Top News: When Sesame Place is racist, what's left?
When Sesame Place is racist, what's left?
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