A viral video of two black children being ignored at a “Sesame Street” theme park by Rosita’s character has sparked outrage and allegations of racism. Since then, there have been a series of other videos of black parents sharing the discrimination their children have experienced at the hands of different “Sesame Street” characters. The administration of Lyndon B. Johnson advanced a series of programs to address poverty and racial injustice and “Sesame Street” was created to close that gap. A 2019 Smithsonian Magazine The article written by Bryan Greene states that “‘Sesame Street’ has been rooted in African-American culture, more specifically in Harlem’s historically black community.” The roots and origin of “Sesame Street” make the treatment of these black children at Sesame Place theme park all the more egregious. This article seeks to highlight why Sesame Place’s bias training solution does not address the root cause of this problem. This article also describes three ways that Place Sésame and other organizations can adopt anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices based on equity and justice.
1. Anti-Racist Hiring Practices. Before hiring anyone at Sesame Place or any other workplace, there should be anti-racist hiring practices built into the hiring process. Where do the employees come from? What are their experiences, especially with people of different racial backgrounds? It’s also important to understand that being from a racially marginalized background doesn’t prevent someone from embracing oppressive systems like colorism and anti-blackness. What experience do employees have of working with the different communities that represent customers? Who assesses job candidates? Is there a diverse panel of people evaluating candidates? Having more people helping in the decision-making process can mitigate potential biases, but it is imperative that those involved in the process are from diverse communities. Are employees evaluated on diversity, equity and inclusion indicators? Consider including questions in job interviews to assess candidates’ awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion. Consider introducing policies that make it clear that racist behavior will not be tolerated and that discrimination will have quick and immediate consequences.
2. Continuous and continuous training. Organizations and institutions must provide continuous and ongoing training to employees, especially those who work with marginalized communities. Does Sesame Place, for example, provide employees with training on adulteification bias? Adultification bias is a widespread problem within the black community and anyone working with and around black children and children from other racially marginalized backgrounds should have an understanding of this type of bias and other types prejudices that have an impact and affect decision-making. What training do you provide to employees? What are the gaps in understanding? Where do employees lack understanding and what ongoing programs will help fill those gaps? Employees working with minority populations also need to take the initiative and learn about different populations. When evaluating job candidates during the job interview, ask candidates what lifelong learning looks like to them and how they learn about groups and communities outside of their own.
3. Customer ratings and reviews. Customers should be given the opportunity to rate and review any employee with whom they interact within an organization, institution or facility. After the aforementioned Sesame Place viral video was released, other black parents began sharing similar experiences they had witnessed, indicating a pervasive problem that persists. While Sesame Place makes it easy for customers to leave detailed, in-depth reviews and is Actually by taking these comments into account, issues of racism are easier to spot and address before they manifest into larger issues. Many organizations have a standard practice where customers can provide feedback, but that feedback is invited as a cosmetic measure and not analyzed or considered. Within many organizations and institutions, the process for providing feedback is complex and convoluted, making the average customer or consumer less likely to do so. Every workplace where employees interact with customers should ensure that feedback is measured on an ongoing and continuous basis and that strategies are developed to respond to feedback given.