I was out of the country for a few weeks, so I was shocked to read up on a troubling wave of racism engulfing cartoon characters and such.
Apparently, parents at Sesame Place near Philadelphia have claimed that characters like Rosita (and a few others who have gone into the Muppet Protection Program) ignored their children when they attempted to high-five or get a picture with them. Those children were Black, while the Muppets were multi-colorful.
Sesame Place issued a heartfelt apology for the bigotry displayed by its cartoon employees, seeming to accept the narrative that the giant terry-clothed creatures were one step removed from being white nationalists. They were convinced that something was wrong by the incontrovertible proof of cell phone camera footage, which showed Rosita refusing to engage with the little Black girl.
It never occurred to them that the person inside the Rosita costume might not have actually seen the child, or that it was heat and annoyance instead of racism that caused the giant Latina Muppet to rebuff the tot.
Then we had the case of Chuck E Cheese, who ignored another little Black girl who was vying for his attention among a bunch of white kids. Clearly, the giant mouse was actually a rat. There could be no explanation other than that these people who had willingly sought jobs to make children happy only wanted to make children of a certain race happy. It was ridiculous to think that they were anything but David Duke in better-looking sheets.
And at the end of it all, you just have to laugh. The fact we are obsessing about the racism of cartoon characters highlights something that has become more rampant and noxious than chimeric bigotry: the narcissistic sense that the world owes us something.
It all stems from the principle of “microaggressions,” those things that a prior generation would have laughed off as bad manners but which become, to the enlightened children of the Boomers, a human rights violation.
The fact that some children were ignored by giant cartoon characters on a very hot summer day is not in Emmet Till territory. My father spent a summer in Mississippi 55 years ago that was fraught with real racism and immediate dangers. He had a run-in with the Klan, was spat upon by little white children and was refused service at several restaurants because of his skin color. That skin color and the fact that he was doing civil rights work made him a traitor to the race.
Those were not microaggressions. The murder of Medgar Evers, of Martin Luther King Jr., of Viola Liuzzo and the beating of John Lewis were not microaggressions either. That was the true face of bigotry.
To have people complaining that the bruised feelings of little toddlers is in that same emotional neighborhood is repellent, and the people who try and advance that false narrative are moral grifters out for a cultural payday. They want to make us feel as if all of society is geared toward hating little Black children, and that their childhood is lived under the shadow of bigotry.
The fact that there is racism, and there is hostility and there is persecution cannot be ignored. But the people who play these games are the ones who are making it much more difficult for people of good faith and common sense to listen when those real cases of inhumanity occur. It’s the boy who cried wolf. If you even pretend that a Muppet overlooking a child of a certain race is a sign of rank bigotry, you are desensitizing us to the situations where minorities actually are the victims of discrimination.
The whole idea of “microaggressions” is the woke’s revenge against America, a society that has traditionally given the benefit of the doubt to strangers. While people can be rude, and even mean, we generally don’t assume that this hostility stems from any kind of actual prejudice. We just think they’re putzes.
But “microaggression” allows the woke, whether it be the women of MeToo or the aggrieved from the Trans communities, or other members of so-called marginalized groups to reframe this bad behavior and lack of kindness as a civil rights violation. If you choose not to call someone with a beard a “she,” you are transphobic. If you question the wisdom of a young woman getting drunk at a party and then walking home with a strange guy, you are a misogynist. And if you question the motives of a stressed-out Muppet who happened to ignore a minority child, you are a white supremacist.
I’m tired of this. I suspect many of you are, too. And so to those who actually think that microaggressions are a legitimate form of bigotry, I have a suggestion from my dear departed Italian grandmother: Go play in traffic, on Sesame Street.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at email@example.com