2 families allege racism from Disneyland characters

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Najja (left) and Jason (right) pose in separate photos with the White Rabbit (Courtesy of Dan Gilleon)

Najja (left) and Jason (right) pose in separate photos with the White Rabbit (Courtesy of Dan Gilleon)

Two families are accusing Disneyland cast members of racism towards their children, and they are planning to take legal action, their lawyer tells theGrio. The families say the incidents occurred during separate visits to the Disneyland Resort in southern California.

Dan Gilleon, the lawyer representing both families who plan on filing separate lawsuits, says the first family (whose last name is ironically Black) was “mistreated” during an interaction with the White Rabbit character at the theme park last August.

“The White Rabbit character mistreated with disrespect and overt disdain, a 6-year old, African-American birthday-boy and his brothers and cousins by crassly refusing even to touch the children who, until that moment, were infused with Disney magic and hoping for nothing but a hug,” according to a letter Gilleon wrote to Disneyland which he gave to theGrio.

The Black family claims that the White Rabbit character purposefully avoided interaction with the children due to their skin color.

“When my son Elijah grabbed [the White Rabbit's] hand, he pulled away from my son,” says Annelia Black the mother of Jason, 6, and Elijah, 9 in a phone interview with theGrio.

Black said that her son said out loud, “That rabbit is being mean!” and then added: “I’m not taking no picture with him! [sic]”

Minutes later, Black said she witnessed the same White Rabbit character kneel down and kiss an Asian child on the forehead and then saw him hug a Caucasian boy. She said one of her family members took photos of the two later interactions.

Black said that when the family filed a complaint with Disneyland guest services, they showed the pictures of the White Rabbit interacting with the Asian and Caucasian children to guest service attendants,  but were immediately told to delete the photos due to privacy concerns.

“They said that you can’t have photos of other kids for the reason of privacy,” Black said. “So a family member deleted [the photos] after they told them that.”

Suzi Brown, the director of media relations for Disneyland, said in a phone interview with theGrio that she has not been made aware of this claim and has no comment.

Gilleon says Disneyland staff had no right to tell his clients to delete those photos.

White Rabbit - Jason

“[Disneyland] didn’t want to believe what it appeared to be,” Gilleon told theGrio Tuesday by telephone. “You can take a photograph of anyone in public and it’s not private.”

Gilleon and Black also said Disneyland offered complimentary guest passes to the Black family, but they refused.

“I would like a national apology of how they treated my family because Disneyland is my son’s favorite place,” Black said. “They chose Disneyland and my youngest son [Jason] loves the White Rabbit. I would like an apology and I would like to know that person will never treat another family like this ever again.”

This past Thursday, a second family came forward claiming that a Disneyland cast member portraying a different character, Donald Duck, treated their children in a similar fashion this past December.

Nastasia White, who is also African-American, asserts that the actor inside the Donald Duck costume ignored two requests to take pictures with her children, Razzi, 5, and Ryder, 2.

“Both the Black family and White family are alleging that they were discriminated against based on their race and skin color,” Gilleon said by phone Tuesday.

Brown says that when the White family made the initial complaint to Disneyland guest relations, the family did not specify that the incident was “racial” in nature.

“They had told us their son had been ignored by Donald Duck. Our records show it was completely accidental,” said Brown. “Those costumes are sometimes hard to see out of. It was something [that] wasn’t intentional.”

Brown says that if the White family alleged any kind of discrimination during the initial complaint filed, Disneyland would have  addressed the issue more seriously and would have taken “completely different” action.

She added that the story involving Donald Duck did not surface until the previous allegation by the Black family became widely reported.

“[The White family] were offered some ‘fast passes’ for next visits and they’ve visited the resort since then,” Brown continued. “It wasn’t an ongoing claim. It was really a guest complaint, not a discrimination case. We thought it had been resolved the next day.”

The White family have not yet taken legal action against Disneyland, but they have hired Gilleon to represent them.

“I suspect Disney ignored my client’s complaints (aside from window dressing and referring to it as a “personal injury” case) because they didn’t think my clients had the courage to stand up to them,” Gilleon said in the earlier email to theGrio. “Regardless, Disney has the chance now to be a leader in civil rights, and we hope they take that opportunity, at which time the lawsuit goes away.”

Regarding the Blacks’ pending lawsuit, Brown emailed: “It would be inappropriate to comment on something that we have not seen. We carefully review all guest claims.”

Gilleon says that he plans on filing the Black family’s lawsuit today.

Follow Brittany Tom on Twitter @brittanyrtom