As the sneaker-wearing bipedal mouse and pizza chain mascot approached, Safa stopped jumping and raised his right hand to receive one of the high-fives Chuck E. was handing out. He clapped one, two, three, four other children on stage before turning around, lowering his head and appearing to stare at Safa, who enthusiastically pointed at him.
Then Chuck E. turned and walked away.
Safa’s mother, Natyana Muhammad, captured the exchange in a 15 second clip which had racked up 3.6 million views by early Thursday. Muhammad claims the employee playing Chuck E. Cheese on July 30 at the franchise in Wayne, NJ, “was racially discriminated against” against his daughter, giving several white children high-fives before they ” WILLINGLY ignore my black baby”. In a tweet, she said the employee ignored her when she confronted them and that the manager working that day “apologized” about what had happened to her daughter.
“She’s so nice, she’s so cool, she’s so smart,” Muhammad, 29, told WABC. “And that was actually the first time I’ve seen someone ignore him or make him feel like they’re invisible.”
PLEASE RETWEET‼️ On July 30 at Chuck E Cheese in Wayne, NJ, my 2 year old was racially discriminated against. As you can see he gives all the kids yt hi-5s and deliberately ignored my black baby. When confronted, he also ignored me. The manager, Angie Valasquez, apologized to her. pic.twitter.com/QMmE3wmti1
— Umm Safa 🩰 (@belllahijabi) July 31, 2022
Chuck E. Cheese did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment early Thursday, but in a statement to NJ.com, the company said it was “saddened” when customers like the Muhammads have “an less than perfect experience”. Chuck E. Cheese thanked the Muhammad family for alerting them to what happened and for giving the restaurant manager a chance to apologize and “address their concerns in person.”
“Our goal is to create an inclusive experience for children and parents of all ages, races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds and learning differences,” the statement read. “Our mission is to provide a fun and safe place ‘Where a kid can be a kid’, and all cast members are trained to ensure we deliver on that promise.”
The alleged Chuck E. Cheese snub comes after a pair of similar incidents at a Sesame Street-themed amusement park near Philadelphia. On June 18, four employees dressed as characters ignored a 5-year-old black girl during an encounter, according to a $25 million federal lawsuit alleging the theme park engaged in “pervasive and appalling racial discrimination.” “, the Associated Press reported.
In a separate incident about a month later, a woman posted a nine-second video that shows an employee of the same amusement park dressed as Rosita – a turquoise Muppet from Mexico who debuted on “Sesame Street” in 1991. – giving several park-goers a high-five before apparently blowing away his black daughter and niece as the girls begged for hugs, The Post reported. A day after the video was posted, Sesame Place Philadelphia apologized, saying the employee didn’t intentionally ignore the girls and was “devastated by the misunderstanding.”
Sesame Place apologizes after Muppet appears to snub black girls on video
Muhammad told NBC News that Safa was attending a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Because her daughter had never seen the company’s mascot, Muhammad began recording, delighted to capture her toddler’s reaction.
After the alleged snub, Muhammad stopped riding, approached Chuck E., tapped him on the shoulder, and let him know that his daughter was just standing there. “And he ignored me,” she said.
Muhammad told WABC that she then complained to management, who arranged a photo with Safa and Chuck E. But, she added, the damage had been done.
“Her demeanor changed from – she was excited, happy, jumping, high-five – when it was time to take a picture, was standing right next to him,” Muhammad said, mimicking the way his daughter s is physically closed.
Muhammad stepped in and tried to contextualize it with a life lesson.
“I kissed her, told her I love her and she never has to…”
The mother’s voice cracked, emotion stopping her for just a moment.
“— begging for love. Because she is loved – by many.