How to be antiracist at Disney (with young kids)

Griffin11

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 28, 2019
My Disney trip planning is currently on hold for obvious COVID reasons, but I am hoping to take a family trip to Disney World at some point, which would be a first for my kids and husband.

My children are currently 5 and 3, and I consider it part of my responsibility as a parent to raise them to be antiracist. Unfortunately racism is a part of many families' vacations, so while of course I want to relax and have fun on vacation, I want to make sure I am doing my part to raise antiracist kids even when we're in vacation mode.

I know there are a lot of different opinions on what is or isn't problematic imagery at Disney (racist, sexist, etc.), so I'm not looking to go there with this post, but I am trying to figure out which things I want to avoid completely, and which things I feel comfortable approaching as a "teachable moment".

It's been a long time since I've been to Disney World (my last visit was brief and 15 years ago), so my memory of any specifics is a bit of a blur, and of course I'm unfamiliar with anything that's changed in the last 15 years. What are the attractions (or anything else) I need to add to my list to research from an antiracist perspective? So far I have Peter Pan's Flight, Jungle Cruise and of course Splash Mountain. And any tips for how you've approached this kind of thing with young kids?
 

Hikergirl

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 28, 2016
Since you seem to be looking for it, I'm sure that if you look hard enough you'll find racism in everything there. Probably best to not bother going at all.
Or you could just go and enjoy your trip. If your kids spot something that is questionable to you and ask you about it then use that as a teaching moment.
 

eksmama01

Life is happening when busy making other plans
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
I fleetingly noticed one thing during Peter Pan and just said to DH, well that wasn't PC. We've talked with our DD about Uncle Remus and about how SM was changed. But overall, I am not sure I understand what exactly you are looking to accomplish by focusing on it. Seek and you will find. Why plan it and search for it- have meaningful discussions as you see fit if the situation arises IMO.

Eta: oops looks like @Hikergirl and I were thinking the same at the same time :D
 
  • Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    100% agree with Hikergirl. Pointing out ever little detail that you find potentially offensive does more harm than good. Just go and enjoy yourself - if the kids have questions then be honest with them. If you REALLY find it offensive, pen and paper, point it out to Disney - they are unafraid of making changes as societal norms change over time.

    THAT SAID;
    Jungle Cruise has been changed - the guys climbing the pole are no longer native slaves, but just other members in the party.

    Have you ever watched "The Three Caballeros", the Donald Duck movie that Gran Fiesta Tour is based on? You could argue that the over-the-top stereotypes are on the racist side, but that's nothing compared to the exploitation of women. The end of the movie is a (presumably) drug-induced head trip. The ride is less so, and instead pokes fun at Donald, but the themes are still there. Unlike "Song of the South", that one is on Disney+. Check it out and see for yourself.
     

    StitchesGr8Fan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 17, 2009
    Splash mountain itself has no racist parts. It is based on a racist movie, but your kids would never know unless you tell them. Jungle cruise has been changed. I don’t recall what is racist in Peter Pan. Pirates has been changed. Country Bears I has some problematic songs for feminism.
     
    Last edited:

    marcyleecorgan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2017
    I don’t recall what is racist in Peter Pan.
    Just about every single moment with the Indigenous tribe in NeverLand. From the costumes, to the songs, and "How" is NOT a greeting!!!! AUGH!!!!!

    OP: don't worry about the Disney Parks. Most, if not all, of the obvious and blatant offensive things in the rides and shows have been removed.

    Unfortunately the racism you may encounter is going to be from other guests, directed at other guests. You can decide how you want to model being a good ally, by speaking up and not tolerating that kind of abusive behavior if you witness it.
     
  • Griffin11

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2019
    Thank you for the comments so far. I know this is a difficult issue. I think you are all right when you say that if I am looking for things that are racist I will find them, that's exactly the point. To plagiarize from a page I googled, "Anti-racist work means acknowledging that racist beliefs and structures are pervasive in all aspects of our lives—from education to housing to climate change—and then actively doing work to tear down those beliefs and structures."

    I'm not trying to pick on Disney here, I just find when I have been dealing with this in other aspects of life (books, tv, or other age appropriate things they're running into) I am better able to talk to my kids about it when I'm prepared. So I appreciate the suggestions people have made of other things to look into further.
     

    sponica

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2017
    I think I am totally confused by this statement "racism is a part of many families' vacations" but that's neither here nor there.

    I know the Tiki Room is up there on exhibits that probably wouldn't fly if they were launched today?
     

    Griffin11

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2019
    I think I am totally confused by this statement "racism is a part of many families' vacations" but that's neither here nor there.
    I just mean that people who are the targets of racism don't have the ability to take a break or vacation from being a target of racism. Not that people go on vacations specifically to be racist!
     
  • Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    I think I am totally confused by this statement "racism is a part of many families' vacations" but that's neither here nor there.

    I know the Tiki Room is up there on exhibits that probably wouldn't fly if they were launched today?
    My first instinct to this was how could a bunch of singing birds be racist, but do you mean because of this?
    Would explain why the Poly is being renovated right now too.
     

    sponica

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2017
    I just mean that people who are the targets of racism don't have the ability to take a break or vacation from being a target of racism. Not that people go on vacations specifically to be racist!
    That makes sense, I was sitting here with my postpartum brain going "how are vacations racist?"
     

    MeridaAnn

    Semi-Local Disney & Universal AP Holder
    Joined
    Oct 22, 2015
    One of the caves on Tom Sawyer Island has a sign at the entrance that says something like "Don't worry, Injun Joe ain't been seen here in a long time."

    The American Adventure in Epcot hints at some issues, but it still glosses over a lot, of course, and could be used as a discussion point if you wanted.

    On the positive side, one of the news reals visible during Spaceship Earth is about Jesse Owens winning at the Olympics, so you could have your kids learn more about him. I know the "Who Was..." series of kids history books has one about him.
     

    bearette

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 4, 2006
    As a teacher, your kids are very young so subtle references will most likely go unnoticed by them. Disney will not foster easy "teachable moments" because you will be vacationing and not in a situation where you can really dig in. I think acknowledging it exists and pointing it out to your kids will be sufficient until they are old enough to engage in more depth. At that point, I would ask the kids how they think it should be handled. Right a letter to disney? Redo the rides? Talk to them about things being done, such as the revamping of Splash Mountain. Ask them their thoughts and if it is "fair".

    I have had this come up with my kids on a vacation to South Africa where we visited Robben Island. They were 6 (twins) at the time and they didn't understand fully what it was about. I answered the questions they had and gave a condensed version for them of why it was a problem and why it needed to be changed. It doesn't need to be a dissertation, but acknowledgement and facts are important because they shouldn't be sugar coated from the facts. People can do wrong and we need to decide for ourselves what we agree with as right and when we need to voice opposition. (Though I wouldn't use those exact words with young kids).
     

    Lilsia

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 17, 2018
    Kids don't see things the way we do because they don't have any context for it. To be constantly going on a ride and then telling your kids how horrible and racist the rides are is not something parents really should be doing. As they get older and come across situations, then talk to them about it. At 5 and 3, they are not even going to be able to comprehend what you are trying to tell them and they will come away with the feeling that something was wrong. Kids learn by example of how you treat people. My kids grew up going to WDW annually and are not racist because they went on Splash Mountain. They know right from wrong and can separate a ride, that was made in a different time, from reality.
     

    North of Mouse

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 31, 2011
    My Disney trip planning is currently on hold for obvious COVID reasons, but I am hoping to take a family trip to Disney World at some point, which would be a first for my kids and husband.

    My children are currently 5 and 3, and I consider it part of my responsibility as a parent to raise them to be antiracist. Unfortunately racism is a part of many families' vacations, so while of course I want to relax and have fun on vacation, I want to make sure I am doing my part to raise antiracist kids even when we're in vacation mode.

    I know there are a lot of different opinions on what is or isn't problematic imagery at Disney (racist, sexist, etc.), so I'm not looking to go there with this post, but I am trying to figure out which things I want to avoid completely, and which things I feel comfortable approaching as a "teachable moment".

    It's been a long time since I've been to Disney World (my last visit was brief and 15 years ago), so my memory of any specifics is a bit of a blur, and of course I'm unfamiliar with anything that's changed in the last 15 years. What are the attractions (or anything else) I need to add to my list to research from an antiracist perspective? So far I have Peter Pan's Flight, Jungle Cruise and of course Splash Mountain. And any tips for how you've approached this kind of thing with young kids?
    Do you actually think any of this will be on a 3 & 5 year olds radar? They're not looking through your eyes thankfully. Only as it comes up 'from them' should you say anything IMO. Let the innocent kids enjoy their Disney trip!
     

    jamescanuck2001

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2010
    As a teacher, your kids are very young so subtle references will most likely go unnoticed by them.
    I would suggest subconscious conditioning starts from a very young age. Kids will absorb and be conditioned to the cultural norms all around them, yes, including the "norms" that are based on racism - such as how native americans are presented in books, movies, and at disney.

    For the OP, the only thing really is to make clear to your kids that Disney does not represent real life and doesn't purport to, it is all whimsical make believe.
     

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