Does SeaWorld Discriminate? Have You Seen a Minority Whale Trainer?

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“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

While the world watches and waits to see what will happen to the hundreds of dolphins who face slaughter in Taiji, Martin Luther King’s words of compassion and personal responsibility remind us that society will never be just if we don’t make an effort to right wrongs when it is in our ability to do so.

Even as SeaWorld sits mute on the annual dolphin slaughter, they also remain mute on their failure to represent persons of color in their high-profile trainer line up. Until recently, when people learned how miserable the whales can be in confinement,  becoming a whale trainer seemed to be a glamorous job, one that every child had the right to dream about.

Unless your skin was dark.

How often have you seen a minority trainer among SeaWorld's elite?
How often have you seen a minority trainer among SeaWorld’s elite?

According to Death at SeaWorldthere was only one African-American trainer, although I can’t verify if he was among the elite whale trainers or whether he was involved with the comical seal shows. SeaWorld doesn’t disclose information on its hiring and recruitment programs.

Jeff’s friend and confidante Samantha Berg was not about to give up her job either. She
loved working at SeaWorld, though she did feel out of place with her dark curly hair and the
only Jewish surname in the department (there was one African-American; the rest were white
and decidedly gentile). Nearly all the other female trainers were tall, fair-haired and willowy.
gentile). Nearly all the other female trainers were tall, fair-haired and willowy – except for one
other dark-haired New Yorker, of Italian descent, who worked at Sea Lion and
Otter Stadium. When Sam was transferred to the stadium, the two became great friends. They
both thought it was pretty funny they had been hired at all,
Two months after Dawn died, the Department of Labor cited SeaWorld parks for
employment records that showed a “disparate impact” on African-American and Hispanic
applicants. As a result, the company was required to contact nearly 1,000 qualified applicants
578 who had been denied employment and either offer them a job or a portion of the modest
settlement mandated by the government.

What makes this a painful fact is that SeaWorld has not problem pandering to children as can be seen with the Mattel SeaWorld trainer dolls – yet the reality is that minority children will come to believe that there is no place for them as equals at SeaWorld. That is the pain of prejudice at work.



From an article I wrote in 2011:

When I was looking through the witness reports on [trainer] Dawn Brancheau’s death, I noticed that witness after witness is listed as white. Of the 41 witnesses that were employed at SeaWorld, 3 were black. It looks like two of those were employed in the restaurant, though it is hard to be sure, and none were listed as trainers. None identified themselves as Asian or Native American.
That is less than 7%. The black population of Orlando is 27% (reference). Because SeaWorld has proven itself to be excruciatingly indifferent and obtuse about their statistics, I didn’t even bother trying to contact them this time, but the pictures, and the evidence don’t lie.
It is time to diversify or to face dwindling attendance by people who don’t see themselves represented fairly, and if SeaWorld can’t recruit minorities willing to go in the water with dangerous animals, then it is just another clue that whole segments of our population don’t relate to those circus acts. Instead, SeaWorld could hire people of all races and physical ability to reconstruct livable habitat for the animals and to figure out a way to make money from keeping the whales in sea pens instead of tanks.

It is not just the animals who are hurt at SeaWorld, prejudice and racism leave scars on the lives of those who are made to feel not good enough by prejudice in all its forms.
As SeaWorld celebrates 50 years of being in business, they appear to be celebrating 50 years of business as usual, even though they need riot police to protect them from what most people feel are unfair and unkind policies, as was shown in the recent Rose Parade fiasco.
It is a new era, one that SeaWorld just can’t seem to adjust to quickly enough, which is a shame given all the good they could do with their resources.
Why was a blond child chosen as iconic of SeaWorld?

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