Local family files lawsuit against Disneyland, claims racism

Family claims mistreatment by Disney character

SAN DIEGO - A local family filed a lawsuit Monday against Disneyland over claims of racism.

In August 2012, Annelia Black and her family took a trip to Disneyland to celebrate her nephew's birthday. Upon entering the gate, the White Rabbit -- a character from "Alice and Wonderland" -- greeted the family.

10News obtained a photo that was snapped of the smiling birthday boy next to the character. But moments earlier, the family said there was an odd exchange between the character and the child, who was reaching out.

"He held out his hand and the rabbit just spread his hands and didn't take his hand," said Annelia Black.

Soon after, another photo was taken of Black's 5-year-old son, Jason, next to the rabbit. Jason said he's smiling in the photo, but not on the inside.

"I felt sad," said Jason.

He said he felt sadness because the White Rabbit was one of his favorite Disney characters.

"I went to hug him, but he just turned his back," the boy said.

"I was like, 'He wants to sit on your lap,' and the rabbit just twirls his fingers," said Annelia Black, who added that her niece got a chilly reception and so did her other son, 9-year-old Elijah.

"I was trying to pull his hand, but he kept trying to pull his hand out of my hand … I felt angry and sort of sad," said Elijah.

After the photos were taken, the family said they watched the rabbit shower the next two children -- an Asian girl and a Caucasian boy -- with kisses and hugs. That's when the Blacks said family members started crying.

"It hurts for someone to treat someone like that, especially at Disneyland. What hurts the most is seeing my children in pain," said Annelia Black.

Before leaving the park, the family complained.

The family said they first got a letter apologizing that the cast member didn't meet their expectations. Several weeks later, the family got a letter from Disney offering $500 in passes, if they signed a confidential settlement.

Annelia Black said she did not sign the document because Disney wouldn't tell her if the person in the rabbit suit still had a job.

The Blacks' attorney sent a demand letter to Disney, demanding a confirmation the employee has been fired, along with policy changes to make sure the incident never happens again.

"What's clear to me, I can't think of anything other than racism that could be the cause," said Dan Gilleon, the Blacks' attorney. "What it tells us is racism is even in places like Disneyland."

Asked if this lawsuit was about money, Annelia Black said, "No."

Black and her husband, Jason, said they want to make sure no other family goes through the same experience.            

"This is Disneyland, this shouldn't be happening at Disneyland," said Jason Black Sr.

Disney issued this statement regarding the Blacks' claims:

"It would be inappropriate to comment on a lawsuit we haven't seen yet. We carefully review all guest claims."

 

Gilleon plans to subpoena surveillance video, which he believes will back up his clients' story. 

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