'Hollow apologies': Sesame Place must take action after 'traumatic' character snubs, social work expert says

Sesame Place is facing national backlash after viral videos caught the attention of everyone, from local parents to celebrities. And now some experts are asking, what happens next?

The viral videos appear to show the character "Rosita" ignoring children at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Mothers claim their children were denied hugs, while other children received them from the character.

"I was hurt for the young people and the parents," said Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director for Pennsylvania Human Relation Commission. "It must be traumatic."

Lassiter believes the videos have become viral because they resonate with so many people who have been in similar situations.

"It harkens back to experiences from African-American people who have been othered," he said.

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Although the social work expert says he understands adhering to the park's policies, he says the video demonstrates the negating of Black children.

"We see so many clips of this character Rosita high-fiving children on the other side of the color line," Lassiter said as he questioned how these children will deal with the fallout.

"Parents now have to unpack this with their child: ‘Mommy, what was it about me that I couldn’t get a hug?'" he said


Lassiter went on to call out Sesame Place's "hollow" apologies.

The park has issued two apologies since the videos surfaced online:

"We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests. "

As for next steps, Lassiter says Sesame Place need to look at unconscious bias training on a continuous basis.

"Something wasn't right, and the children definitely felt that," he said.