• Thu, Feb 7 2013

The Happiest Place On Earth Just Got Very Sad, Disneyland’s White Rabbit Accused Of Racism

disneylandDisneyland in Anaheim, California is being sued by a family that says one of the park’s costumed characters refused to touch their child because of the color of his skin. It’s a story that’s so offensive, it’s almost difficult to process.

Jason and Annelia Black took their kids to Disneyland, like plenty of other families do every year. But they noticed that something was a little off with one of the park’s characters. When their son, who is African-American, went up to hug the White Rabbit, the character was rude and distant, not even touching the child for pictures. Minutes later, the family saw the same character hugging and kissing white children.

The behavior was noticeable enough that even the Black’s son Elijah commented on it, telling reporters, “This white boy, he started hugging him, kissing the girl and hugging the boy and they were white.”

The parents decided to file a complaint with the company, as they were justifiably angry with the behavior directed towards their kids. At first, park management offered the Blacks VIP passes to come back to Disneyland. After they turned the passes down, they were offered $500, as long as they agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement. That’s when the family decided to sue the theme park.

Jason and Annelia say that they would like Disneyland to publicly apologize for their employee’s actions and that they want the employee in question fired for their conduct.

Obviously, Disneyland cannot be held completely responsible for the conduct of every employee in their parks. If they had no idea that the actor playing the White Rabbit was racist or would behave in such a manner, they couldn’t have prevented this treatment. That being said, it’s their park. It’s their responsibility to apologize for this horrible treatment and to publicly state how inappropriate it is.

As a parent, I have to admit that I’m just shocked that such behavior could take place. Disneyland is every little kid’s dream. It’s where magic is real and being happy is the most important thing. That a child would have to deal with ugliness like racism at a place like Disneyland is just awful. It’s incomprehensible.

Deep in my heart, I want to believe that this was all a big misunderstanding. I want to think that this mysterious White Rabbit didn’t mean to be offensive or rude. I want to think that his behavior had nothing to do with anyone’s skin tone. It’s Disneyland! I don’t want to think that such a horrible thing could happen there!

But it did. And this poor little boy believes that a beloved children’s character didn’t want to hug him because of the color of his skin. There is no excuse for that. And there’s no excuse for Disney not stepping up, taking responsibility, and then throwing this family the most magical Disneyland parade that there ever was. If anyone is owed a happy ending, it’s this family.

(Photo: Disney.com)

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  • Lilac

    Look it could have been as something as simple as there son had candy or ice cream all over his hands and face. That white rabbit costume is hard to clean and the actor in question would not be allowed to continue his rounds if the costume got dirty. Disney is very particular with its costume characters.

    • Katia

      Although these ideas may be true, the awful part is that Disney has allegedly not apologized not fired the person not explained the reason and had the audacity to offer a very cheap payout with a confidentiality agreement!? What idiot manager has made all these terrible business choices ?

    • meg

      Would you really deprive someone of their job in this economy because they didn’t want to get ice cream on their costume, thus cutting their hours? Does that seem fair?

    • Katia

      If there was no racism, Disney should not need to offer 500$ and a confidentiality agreement. Maybe they have explained to the offended family(an ice cream reason or what have you) and the family just wants a pay out. But why the confidentially agreement? Disney should make an announcement or something about how kids must have clean hands to get hugs from characters to prevent this from escalating and or repeating. Wouldn’t anyone be offended if they complained and were offered enough money for 1 months of groceries and a confidentiality agreement ? It would really weird me out. Regarding the economy, watch your work performance lots of smart talented and hardworking people want your job!

    • meg

      $500 is what you find in the cup holder of any random Disney executive’s Jaguar. It’s the equivalent of you spilling your slurpee at 7-11 and demanding a refund, so they just refill your slurpee to avoid a tantrum: even if it’s not their fault, it’s better business to make a customer happy.

      What if it weren’t ice cream hands, but the kid was acting up? Is Disney going to make an announcement “Keep your asshole kids out of our park”? That wouldn’t be great for PR. As it’s mentioned upthread, these characters have handlers, and it’s not part of any sort of pattern – it’s one set of parents applying their own logic to an ambiguous situation. To me, that’s not worth someone getting fired over.

    • RaptorSafari

      What if… racism were a real thing and inventing grievous crimes like “ice cream hands” wouldn’t make anyone a deserving victim of it?

    • Lawcat

      The offering of money and a confidentiality agreement isn’t an admission of guilt. It’s actually a good business decision.

      $500 is a pittance to Disney. As with most complaints, it’s easier to settle. That doesn’t mean the family was correct, just that Disney doesn’t want to deal with them.

      If someone takes money, you always sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition. If Disney didn’t have them sign one and just gave them the money, and then they went to the media, people would be lining up saying they too were a victim of alleged racism in order to get an easy $500 payout.

    • RaptorSafari

      Yeah guys jeez, would you really deprive a racist of his job that he refuses to do for black children the same way he does for white children? I thought this was AMERICA. Black kids can wait for racism to end once the economy’s better. Stop being greedy, little black kids.

    • RaptorSafari

      Thank god there’s always something that makes it the minority’s fault, huh! Boy, if racism actually existed and innocent little children were victims of it through no fault of their own, gosh that would be a sad thing. But luckily we don’t live in that world, huh!

  • Sarah

    Unless the character said it was because the child was black or unless the character snubbed multiple black children, I don’t understand how this can so clearly be defined as racism? What if that kid was acting up? What if, like the previous poster said, he had something on his hands? Or smelled? Or a million other things? I think it’s out of line to simply accept that this person is racist because he didn’t want to touch one child when you have no idea if it was the child’s skin or the child himself.

    • RaptorSafari

      Ten upvotes for “you can’t trust this black family’s assessment of the situation and it was probably that black kid’s fault anyway.” Good job, guys. I can always trust the internet to remind me that racism isn’t real and is always deserved.

    • Sarah

      A. You’re a moron for assuming you know the racial makeup of the people responding.

      B. It’s more “you can’t trust one individual family’s interpretation of events that may be completely explainable without a pattern of behavior or some shred of proof.”

      C. Your logic would mean I could accuse you of racism because you insulted my one post. Guess racism is real and you’re guilty of it.

  • Byron

    I don’t really get it, why would the kid of all things think that it was his color that made the bunny dislike him or that it was the whiteness of the other kids that made it hug and kiss them? I feel like this kid was being fed a lot of negative things from his parents and he has come to see these things in those terms. A bit too early if you ask me.

    A typical child would think “why does the bunny dislike me? did I do something wrong? do these other kids eat all their veggies and never fight? do they get straight As in their spelling tests?”…or, you know, something! Something like that! Not “it’s cause I’m black, isn’t it?”. It’s a bit too early for that kind of victim mentality and I fear the kid is being groomed to rely on the race card for whenever something which he feels is unfair happens, regardless of potential facts he may be unaware of concerning why that situation unfolded as it did.

    • RaptorSafari

      “Typical” kids are white, I guess? Because black kids are aware of racism. Because of being black. And having to deal with you. You specifically. The racist. Black parents have to have long sad talks with their children after they interact with you, Byron.

  • Michelle

    Can the characters even see out of their costumes? Unless there have been consistent complaints about this cast members behavior I have a hard time believing the family. The lines for characters are so long and Disney is such a diverse place that it would be hard for the cast member to only touch white kids without being noticed by others. And really this is the most offensive story that you claim is difficult to process?

    • RaptorSafari

      Good thing racism isn’t real!

  • Mary

    This story really upsets me and it’s not because the boy was “discriminated” against. It’s because the same thing happened to my (white) daughter. We were in line to see Alice (Epcot) and we watched Alice fall all over the little brother and sister before us. She really took her time with them and even talked with them for a while. When it was my daughter’s turn, NOTHING. No “hello”, no hug, NOTHING. It made my blood boil. But I moved on and we continued on with our magical day. I didn’t make a big deal about it, I didn’t want to draw attention to it and make my daughter feel bad. Sometime you just need to let things go.

    • quinn

      I agree. I think that it would make me furious too if I felt like my daughter was snubbed by a character, but I would keep that to myself like you did so as not to make her feel worse than she already did by calling national attention to it. We were just at Epcot, and the characters see so many kids in one day that I try to cut them a break if they aren’t able to muster superhuman enthusiasm every second they are in character. They are human.

    • RaptorSafari

      Yeah don’t get uppity, black families, jeez! Don’t rock the boat! Just turn the other cheek! Your kids don’t deserve to have the same Disneyland experience as white kids! Just be grateful you’re even allowed to walk through the gate!

    • steph

      Jesus christ, would you shut the fuck up with your obnoxious ass-talk?!

    • RaptorSafari

      Scare quotes cure racism!

  • Vivi’s Mom

    As an ex “cast member” I can say this is difficult for me to believe… The characters are on a time restriction they can only be out for 30 minutes out of the hour and no character is by themselves, each has at least 2 handlers to keep them on time… If a character is told to move on they listen… The only explanation I can think of is that I know some characters are stand off-ish if a child seems frightened… Anything to avoid a crying screaming child… I think if they called and complained any Disney offered them something they should have taken it…

    • meg

      Agreed. I have friends who are current “cast members” (not at Anaheim) who’ve talked about the delicate balance between making a guest happy and trying not to get sneezed in their face by a sick child etc.

    • RaptorSafari

      Those black kids… always sneezing.

    • RaptorSafari

      Yeah see! That black kid probably deserved it! And the family was just lying when they said they experienced racism! Racism isn’t real you guys! It never ACTUALLY happens. Phew!

  • K.

    Until I see a videotape, I’m having a hard time believing that there’s a racist white rabbit character at Disneyland. I have an easier time that there are parents out there who can’t believe that the white rabbit character didn’t give Precious Snowflake his due attention.

    I HOPE I’m right because the alternative is not very good, but I think I’m right given that the story is weird:

    a) why would someone take a job as a Disney character to exercise racism onto children? Disney, the many times I’ve been is a pretty diverse place and characters have to interact with kids that are from all over the WORLD.

    b) characters have handlers–wouldn’t they say something?

    c) is there a pattern of behavior with the actor who was in costume? Were there other complaints?

    d) aren’t there a whole lot of other reasons why the rabbit might hold back–maybe he perceived that the kid was a little frightened; maybe the kid tried to kick him; maybe it’s not standard for characters to hug and kiss kids unless the kids specifically ask them to, and the other white kids did?

    e) I’m not sure I believe that a 9-year-old would assume it was racism…unless his parents told him that and he was speaking to a reporter.

    I’ll feel bad for the Blacks if it’s proven that they were the victim of (…what? Racist Disneyland character interaction?) but with the information that we’ve got so far, I’m betting that these people think Disney has deep pockets and they’re suing thinking they’ll get a big payout; sadly, I think that without more concrete evidence, they’re going to find just how deep Disney’s pockets go…And not in a good way.

    • Katia

      I do agree that there was no pattern. (I thought this story would be more… Exciting but it only happened To one kid!)That’s kind of an issue. Does anyone else think its weird they offered the parents a payout and confidentialty agreement though? Offering a payout makes you look guilty. If they had time to offer that why not get the rabbit to explain? Maybe because showing the kid the rabbit actor would ruin the facade ? Lol this story Actually is interesting on many levels

    • K.

      I agree that a payout looks guilty, but $500 is such a small amount that I’m not sure I’d necessarily call it a “payout” because the term sounds sort of more official/legal than what it may have been, which perhaps was more along the lines of a monetary gesture of goodwill. To me, it’s more along the lines of “I got food poisoning at The Olive Garden”; “Oh, sorry, here’s a gift certificate for two free meals” or whatever. $500 is a round sum that is about equal to the cost of entrance for 2 kids and 2 adults, so essentially Disney was refunding the Blacks.

      I think that a confidentiality agreement is also sort of normal for larger service/entertainment companies whenever there is something that has the potential to damage the brand. They don’t do it necessarily because they’re avoiding lawsuits or because they’re guilty; they’re doing it because of the golden rule in business: it’s cheap and effective. Disney just wants the Blacks to go away, so it’s cheap and easy for them to offer the family a “refund” on the grounds that the Blacks can’t then turn around and hold a press conference. I don’t even think Disney is all that worried about this legally, I think they’re just a bit disgruntled that they’ll have to spend more money in PR fees to address the Blacks’ claims through the media than the direct $500 payout.

      Believe me, I’m not a Disneyite; I just think that the $500 and confidentiality agreement sound like “SOP” for a company like theirs. I imagine that it’s the same if someone got in a tangle with Martha Stewart or American Girl Club or Apple or some other brand that has a specific image it needs to keep clean.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      This mentality is why offers of compromise (payout) are not admissible in trials :) Juries always think it means guilt.

    • RaptorSafari

      Those wily blacks, always making up racism (which we all know is fictional and never happens irl!) just for a payout.

    • K.

      …You’re aware that “Black” is the family name, right? And that “Blacks” is the pluralization of the name to refer to all four individuals as a family? And that proper nouns are capitalized, whereas conventionally, “blacks” to refer to black Americans is not? Alrighty, then. Good talk.

  • jef3r

    Do we even know the race of the person who was in the rabbit costume? Maybe he was the same race as the Blacks? That the Blacks jumped to the conclusion that this was a racist issue makes me wonder if they just assumed the person playing the rabbit was white. If he’s not, wonder if they’ll change their tune… Not that black on black racism doesn’t exist but it sounds like they made a lot of assumptions here. I’ve seen the pictures of the rabbit with their kids. And I’ve seen the pictures they submitted of the rabbit with the white kids. The white kids were considerably younger. I’m wondering if this was simply an issue with the age of the children. Typically older children don’t want the hugs and touching.

    • RaptorSafari

      See kids, today we learned that there are only two races, and that any time anyone thinks anything is racist, they are always lying. Always. Racism isn’t real. I mean, I think if it was white people would be the first to admit it, am I right?

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  • jadedeagle

    And this is why racists can feel so secure in their behavior. Almost all the commenters are spending time casting aspersions on the family making the complaint for no good reason.
    Disney “cast members” have committed rapes and murders before. Yet you guys, despite not being there feel you “know” that this family must be wrong, for all kind of illogical and contradictory reasons.
    For you to defend someone against charges of racism when you have no idea of their actions or character is beyond ludicrous.

    • Sviatopolk

      For you to assume someone is guilty of racism when you have no idea of their actions or character (or the character of the parents of the alleged victim) is beyond ludicrous.

    • Sviatopolk

      African-Americans have also committed rapes and murders before. Therefore, by your logic, we must assume there is some tendency amongst black people to commit such crimes…right?

      Nobody is casting aspersions against the family in question. People seem to be of the idea that there are a lot of details missing, and that we should not immediately assume that the cast member did not want to hug the kid due to his rabid racism – which, judging by your comment, permeates the inequality-loving staff at Disneyland.

      ‘Guilty until proven innocent’ is a bad ethos, regardless of whether you apply it to the Black family or the (allegedly) white staff member.

    • Jasmiriah

      Someone mentioned earlier that the LASTNAME of the family is BLACK. So much for reading comprehension.

  • Jasmiriah

    It’s mind boggling how people failed to realise that the family name is Black. I mean, what if, the parents are white and they ADOPTED a black child? I mean, because we only know the ethnicity of the child and not the parents. I thought reading comprehension was part of our English classes growing up.