Do African Americans Have a Justifiable Reason to Call Out Racism?
As we look at the current racial climate here in America, it is obvious that there are some significant remnants that remain from the seeds planted by the previous president, which have emboldened some people to spew racist rhetoric and express racist actions without fear or reservation. Some have gone so far as to boldly use the “N-word” while others use code words, throw out subtle gestures, and even take the lives of Black people through violence.
There is a remnant of people out here looking to start an all-out “race war,” and unless these dog whistles and actions are not called out, racism will continue to permeate our society and cause bigger problems than we currently are witnessing.
Even the Justice Department sees many of these actions as part of a deep-rooted and systemic issue that must be addressed, especially after the mass shooting and recent federal grand jury indictment of the 19-year-old white boy accused of killing ten African Americans and wounding several others at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, NY, on May 14th.
Payton Gendron was formally indicted on hate crimes and weapons charges. According to the Justice Department, they believe Gendron committed this act of domestic terrorism with his Bushmaster XM rifle and did so after tons of “planning and premeditation.”
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint that led to the federal grand jury indictment, and as part of the complaint, they allege that “Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”
In a statement after the federal grand jury indictment, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated:
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy. We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”
Racism and white supremacy continue to be an issue and unless everyone sees this as an issue, acts like the one carried out by Gendron will unfortunately continue.
Yet sadly, some people act as if calling out racism and white supremacy, is problematic in itself.
It is truly sickening to hear openly racist dialogue and see blatantly racist behavior being displayed towards Black people, while some continue to turn a blind eye to the behavior and act as if Black people are just being too hypersensitive or over-the-top.
African Americans have been ringing the alarm for many years, so hearing stories like these is nothing new. Social media has just brought many of these stories to light and given them more exposure, unlike the days of old.
Let’s take the recent incident at Sesame Place in Philadelphia, PA.
A mother posted a video of her two Black daughters being disrespected and ignored by one of the Sesame characters at the theme park. In the video, you see two excited young girls waiting to engage with the character, Rosita, who is making their way down the parade route. The Rosita character is seen seemingly giving a high-five to a white family, but when the character gets to the two little Black girls who have their arms stretched out seeking a hug, the Rosita character disregards them, waves them off, and keeps on walking down the parade route.
The look on the two girls’ faces is hard to ignore.
The mother of the two young girls, who goes by the Instagram username of @__jodiii__, took to social media to post the troubling video after the incident occurred. This is what she posted:
I’m going to keep posting this, because this had me hot. We were on our way out of sesame place and the kids wanted to stop to see the characters. THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us! Then when I went to complain about it, they looking 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 !! I will never step foot in @sesameplace ever again ! And please feel free to repost this. Actually run me my money back😡🤬so mad I stopped the video but it got me so mad when he blatantly told them no
The video went viral in minutes, garnering the attention of several high-profile individuals.
Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump shared the video on Twitter and Instagram, and called on Sesame Place to address the disheartening incident accordingly, stating:
This is absolutely HEARTBREAKING! These two young Queens did NOT deserve to be blatantly singled out and ignored by this #SesameStreet character! @SesamePlace MUST address their staff’s disgusting behavior!
Sesame Place issued an initial apology, stating:
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 have always 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. Regarding the incident yesterday, the costumes our performers wear sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from guests.
The performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted. The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding. We spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters. We apologize to these guests for not delivering the experience they expected and we commit to do our best to earn their and all guests’ visit and support.
The statement from Sesame Place was considered lackluster and too-little-to-late by many, and it immediately drew the ire of Grammy Award-winning singer Kelly Rowland, who went in on the theme park and its leadership on their Instagram apology post, stating:
“Those gorgeous girls will never forget that feeling! THEY ARE KIDS!!!!! You should be ASHAMED of yourselves for this pathetic statement!”
As the video continued to go viral and more comments were made, it forced Sesame Place to issue a second apology statement and address the matter internally, which partly read:
“We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not ok. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.”
These are just a few examples of the continuous racism that Blacks are facing on a day-to-day basis, and as stated, African Americans are not being hypersensitive.
African Americans are screaming the same things to America that have been talked about for decades—racism continues to be real and needs to be called out and addressed.
So, when Black people are murdered, assaulted, racially profiled, attacked, disrespected, and ignored due to racism, the same energy and tactics should be used when it happens to other groups and races.
The boldness and freedom that many people have nowadays when it comes to expressing their racist views is reminiscent of the days of old, and it is being played out in many areas—business, politics, healthcare, law enforcement, the judicial system, educationally, housing, lending, and across the entire social spectrum.
If the viral video would not have been posted and if the comments had not been made on social media, the company would probably not have posted an apology and would have argued that they were unaware of it being a racist act until people expressed their concerns.
Sadly, this has become the state of our country. People do something racist, deliver a lukewarm or fake apology when things get heated, and then wait for things to die down so that it does not impact the bottom line of their business or their livelihood.
This should be a wake-up call for African Americans to know that calling out racism is important, and that sitting back and saying nothing does not address the elephant in the room.