Quinton Burns: Baltimore dad's video shows Telly Monster and Ernie 'ignoring' Black daughter at Sesame Place
A video shows a Sesame Street theme park employee allegedly ignoring a black girl. Baltimore dad Quinton Burns alleged that four employees dressed as Sesame Street characters ignored his five-year-old daughter, Kennedi, and other black guests on June 18 during a meet-and-greet.
The video showed the characters in their costumes dancing in a parade. An employee known as Telly Monster walked over to wave and shake the hands of the children attending the event. Kennedi, who was among the children in the group, tried reaching out to the character, but he walked away and waved his hand to other spectators. Kennedi then turned around to her father, frowning. An employee named Ernie later came and greeted the same group but refused to shake hands with Kennedi in what people have said is a racist incident.
Sesame Place said that the employees are often unable to see all the spectators as their costume limits their vision and that the snubbing was unintentional. "Just looking at her face, it makes me want to cry every time I see it," Burns said at a press conference, according to the Daily Mail. The father has filed a $25 million suit seeking class-action status. The suit was filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of Sesame Place, for "pervasive and appalling race discrimination."
This incident comes after another video showed two other black girls from New York allegedly being snubbed by Rosita during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia. In this case, too, Sesame Place claimed that the actor inside the Rosita suit was unable to see the girls. It apologized for its actions too.
$25mn Racism Lawsuit Filed Against Sesame Street Theme Park— MOCez🇷🇺🇱🇾🇮🇶🇾🇪🇨🇳🇵🇰🇵🇸🇸🇾🇮🇳🇮🇷🇰🇵 (@Mousacisse1) July 29, 2022
The father of two black girls who were ignored by a man dressed as a Sesame Street character filed a $25 million lawsuit against the theme park on Wednesday, claiming "pervasive and appalling race discrimination." pic.twitter.com/v6UXaXsNtA
In a statement, theme park officials said of the incident, "Our brand, our park and our employees stand for inclusivity and equality in all forms. That is what Sesame Place is all about and we do not tolerate any behaviors in our parks that are contrary to that commitment. We also are, and always have been, committed to making sure every family and every child has the best possible experience at our parks and we are incredibly disappointed when that does not happen. We spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters."
Meanwhile, Malcolm Ruff, one of the attorneys, said during a recent press conference that the company must compensate the Burns family. "She was ignored amongst a sea of other young white children who were able to interact, give hugs, high fives," Ruff said. "Kennedi was forced to experience racism at the age of 5. This is unacceptable and we will not stand by and let this continue."
The suit was reportedly filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In a statement to Eyewitness News, Sesame Place responded to the lawsuit, saying, "We will review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr Burns. We look forward to addressing that claim through the established legal process. We are committed to deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests."
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked for a meeting with leadership at a Sesame Street theme park. "Over the past week, we've seen multiple glaring examples of racism coming from the park, including the viral video in which two beautiful little black girls were blatantly rejected by a character they idolized while white children were embraced," they said.