Disneyland may bill itself as a place where dreams come true, but thanks to one allegedly racist employee, a 6-year-old boy’s trip there in August quickly turned into a nightmare when one of the park’s characters refused to hug him because he was black, a San Diego family is claiming in a lawsuit against the “happiest place on Earth.”
Jason and Annelia Black are suing Disneyland because they say the rabbit character from “Alice in Wonderland” ignored their two children and their cousins, while showering other white children with attention, according to the New York Daily News.
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The Blacks had visited the theme park only weeks before the incident, and were treated normally by the rabbit character, which is their son Jason Jr.’s favorite, the family’s attorney said. When the family returned on Aug. 11, the rabbit was a different beast entirely, and turned tail at the sight of the family, shunning them, they claim.
“Regardless of whether the guy in the costume was a racist – I don’t know who he is or if he’s white – the way he behaved, he was treating my clients differently,” Dan Gilleon, the Black family’s lawyer, said to the Daily News.
“And the only thing that was different about them was that they were black,” he added.
When Jason Jr. approached the rabbit to give his hero a friendly hug, the person playing the Disney character just walked away, according to KSWB.
“I went to hug him but he turned his back,” Jason Jr. said. “It’s made me feel sad because I wanted to really hug him.”
Jason Jr.’s brother claimed it was obvious the rabbit was giving them the cold shoulder.
“The Rabbit was turning his back on him like he didn’t want to touch him,” his older brother Elijah said. “Then I went up and tried to hold his hand but he kept flicking my hand off.”
Jason’s mother also sensed the person playing the character almost immediately grew impatient with the family.
“I asked the rabbit, I said ‘he wants to hug you,'” said Annelia Black. “He’s like twirling his fingers, like hurry up take the picture,” KSWB reported.
The family claims they promptly went to the park’s management office to complain and showed them photos, which they said proved the rabbit character was trying to avoid touching their children, and their cousins. They’re currently asking the park to hand over surveillance footage from the day as well, to further support their allegations.
The Black family filed an official complaint with Disneyland and was offered VIP passes worth $500 in exchange for signing a settlement agreement, but the Blacks declined, their lawyer Gilleon said. The family is apparently seeking justice rather than money as compensation for the ordeal. The Blacks want Disneyland to terminate the employee who discriminated against their sons, and their cousins, and publicly apologize for ignoring their complaint, Gilleon said.
“They’re not trying to get something they don’t deserve,” said Gilleon. “In fact all they’ve asked for is a little bit of recognition that this should not have happened.”