Published on February 27th, 2013 | by Daniel R. Perlman0
White Rabbit alleged racial discrimination against black children
The White Rabbit character from Walt Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” discriminated by refusing to hug black children last summer at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim – and it wasn’t because the rabbit was late for a very important date, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 13 in Orange County Superior Court.
Six extended-family members – three children and three adults – are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Adult members of the family said they sued because Disney refused to take meaningful action in response to their complaints.
Last week, Disney officials declined to comment on the allegations because a lawsuit had not been filed and their lawyers had not had an opportunity to review the case. This week the Watchdog obtained and sent to Disney a copy of the certified complaint and asked again for a comment.
Just before this story went to print Thursday, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown sent this statement:
“We believe the claims are without merit and we plan to vigorously contest the lawsuit. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and strive to provide wonderful experiences for all of our guests.”
Black Sr. said the family’s visit to the park Aug. 11 created lasting memories, but they aren’t good ones.
Jason Jr. and Jayson’s cousin, Kobe Khalfani, 6, went up to the rabbit and tried to hold its hand. Instead of hugging the child as characters at the park often do, the White Rabbit shook his paw free of Kobe’s grip, turned his back, and stepped away. The character then turned to white and Asian children who had formed a line behind the family, and showered them with affection, hugs and kisses.
The adult members of the family immediately complained to Disney officials, demanding they fire the employee, said the family’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon of San Diego. They later demanded that Disney publicly apologize and proclaim that the park does not tolerate racial discrimination, and institute company-wide diversity training.
Disneyland officials responded to the families’ complaints by offering each set of parents and children $500 in tickets; the settlement would have precluded the families from suing the park or mentioning the incident publicly, Gilleon said. He said Disney refused to release video surveillance footage of the incident.
Instead of accepting the settlement, some members of the family decided to file a lawsuit claiming civil rights violations, Gilleon said. They planned to get the video surveillance footage through discovery if park officials would not give it up willingly.
Disney’s Brown said no surveillance video of the incident exists. She said the free tickets were offered to the families because they complained they were not satisfied with their Disneyland experience.
As of Wednesday, the plaintiffs were willing to settle the lawsuit without receiving any money, if Disney agreed to meet their original demands, Gilleon said.
Source: The OC Register “White Rabbit allegedly snubbed black children,” February 21, 2013.