Universal Studios bows to the mob, settles lawsuit with parents accusing character of ‘white power’ sign

Universal Studios has settled a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by the parents of children who claimed that one of the characters at the sprawling Orlando theme park flashed a “white power” symbol while standing behind a five-year-old Hispanic girl and a six-year-old black girl on two separate occasions.

In the incidents which took place in February and March of 2019, two different Universal employees dressed up in costumes of Gru, a character from the “Despicable Me” movie led to the parents filing a lawsuit that accused the entertainment company of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.

According to the Orlando Sentinel which reported on the settlement, “The families sued Universal in Orange County in June 2021 for more than $100,000 in total damages. They later moved the lawsuit to U.S. District Court, increasing their claims to over $75,000 for each plaintiff and suing Lowes Royal Pacific Resort. Both girls’ parents claimed they suffered emotional distress and battery, alleging the performers also touched them without their consent.”

“Court records do not show the settlement’s terms in the case, which was closed Sept. 12,” the outlet reported. “Settlement agreements often have confidentiality clauses that keep details of a lawsuit’s resolution private.”

(Image: Screengrab/The Daily Mail)

In one incident, “a 6-year-old girl referred to as J.Z. in the document attended a breakfast at Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort and posed for a photo and video with a person dressed in the Gru costume. The actor placed a hand on her shoulder while displaying the ‘OK’ hate symbol, according to the photo provided by the families. The hand gesture was on display for an extended period of time on the biracial child’s shoulder, lawyers for the family wrote,” according to a report from Orlando television station WKMG.

(Video: YouTube/WKMG)

“The 6-year-old later printed out a screenshot from the video to bring to school for a project and was humiliated when she was told she could not display it for her class because of the hand gesture in the images, according to the lawsuit,” the outlet reported. “In February 2019, a person dressed as Gru did the same thing to another 5-year-old girl, referred to as H.R. in the lawsuit, at the Universal Orlando theme park.”

“When I was looking through the photos, I was like ‘wait a minute, why is this sign on my child’s shoulder?” Said Tiffiney Zinger, one of the parents who sued the theme park.

“When my child had approached him, he put his hand on her as though he was just doing it regular,” she added, “and as I was looking at the camera, he started to put the universal white supremacist hate sign on her shoulder.”

(Video: YouTube/USA Today)

Formerly known as the “OK” gesture during saner, less racially toxic times, hysterics have insisted that holding the thump and forefinger together to form an “O” with the remaining three fingers extended is a sinister messaging technique for a society that is only six years removed from electing and reelecting a black president yet is dominated by phantom white supremacists, a ridiculous suggestion that has nonetheless been given credence by the media.

(Image: Screengrab/The Daily Mail)

According to The Daily Mail, “The Anti-Defamation League labeled the ‘OK’ hand gesture a form of hate speech in 2017 following its appearance on 4chan. The ADL’s report on the gesture notes that it is mostly ‘entirely innocuous and harmless,'” which was the case for generations before billionaire businessman Donald J. Trump pulled the political upset of the century by toppling the “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton, driving the entire left mad with a blind rage that has replaced rational thinking.

“The overwhelming usage of the “okay” hand gesture today is still its traditional purpose as a gesture signifying assent or approval. As a result, someone who uses the symbol cannot be assumed to be using the symbol in either a trolling or, especially, white supremacist context unless other contextual evidence exists to support the contention. Since 2017, many people have been falsely accused of being racist or white supremacist for using the “okay” gesture in its traditional and innocuous sense,” the ADL says on its website, an acknowledgment that the hand symbol is not always a “white supremacist” expression, leaving it up to the interpretation of observers.

The news of Universal’s settlement comes as another high-profile racial discrimination lawsuit against another theme park, Sesame Place has been in the headlines over allegations that the popular character Rosita snubbed children of color.

In a sad time when even the most innocuous acts are interpreted as racism and the media fans the flames, the word will soon be out that theme parks are an easy payday for lawyers who make their living off of the racism industrial complex.

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