Maybe it’s the world I live in, but I was surprised by the recent hoopla over this Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family. White mom, black dad, biracial child. It’s 2013, for goodness sakes. What’s the big deal?!?
Cute commercial. Cute kid. Cute family. Again I ask, what’s the big deal? Well, apparently it is a big deal to some. Within days of posting on YouTube, General Mills, makers of Cheerios, disabled the comments due to some racist comments including references to Nazis, “troglodytes” and “racial genocide.” (Don’t feel bad, I had to look up “troglodyte” too–a prehistoric hermit living in a cave.) The major news media are all over it, with segments or articles on The Today Show, ABC News, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Slate, et al.
Before we get too worked up over this, let’s acknowledge that the comments were primarily made on YouTube and Reddit. YouTube seems to be the headquarters of vitriolic commenters. (If you don’t believe me, just check out this blog about comments Creating a Family has received on their adoptive breastfeeding videos.) Seriously, there is something about YouTube that brings out the crazies. I don’t hang out at Reddit much, but after reading through some of the comments over there, I’m guessing they get more than their share of looneys as well. But to be fair, there were also some racist comments made on a few Facebook posts about the commercial, including a thread expressing surprise that a black dad would stay with his family. (The specific derogatory comment appears to have been deleted, but responses to that comment remain, including this great one: “Being a lousy dad isn’t a race problem. It’s a lack of being a man problem. It’s a not wanting to be an adult problem.”)
I don’t know about you, but interracial families are old news in the world I live in. They are old news on television shows too, but apparently the advertising world lags behind the real world. I’m glad they are catching up, and I applaud Cheerio for leading the way.
Are We Really Color Blind?
Almost all the comments I’ve read on the social networks have been very supportive of this ad, but one line of comments that I saw frequently struck me as odd. They can generally be categorized as “I’m colorblind” comments. Here’s are a couple of examples:
- Saw this ad this morning and thought it was adorable. Until I read the story on MSN, I didn’t even realize it featured a interracial couple. Thank God I’m blind to ignorance and hate.
- I have watched the commercial several times before seeing this. I never noticed the family being biracial.
I find it hard to believe that someone could really watch this commercial (rather than just have it playing in the background while they did something else until the TV show comes back on) and not realize this was a white mom, black dad, and bi-racial daughter. I’d love to think we live in a post-racial world where color is not even noticed, but as a transracial adoptive mom, I think we have a LONG way to go.
Why We Need More Interracial Families on TV
Families come in all shapes, flavors, sizes and colors, and it is so so important for our kids to see this in their everyday life—in the books they read and TV they watch. It is obviously important for kids in a transracial/interracial family through birth or adoption to see this, but I think it is equally important for kids in homogeneous racial families, be they white, black, or brown, to have this exposure too, if only because it will make life easier for my kids.
Camille Gibson, General Mills’ vice president of marketing, said they were standing behind the commercial and had no intent of discontinuing it: “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families, and we celebrate them all.” You go Cheerios!
Does this brouhaha surprise you too or I am just naive? What about the “I’m so colorblind I didn’t even notice they were an interracial couple” comments?
Image credit: Ellery Chen
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Love the conversation here. I too dislike the proclamations ofbeing color blind, as if that is the proof of how non-racist one is. I see the color, I acknowledge it, I rejoice in it. Our very creative and expressive Creator did His best work in creating such variety, and thru that lens, it makes me excited that we all are made so uniquely. All with His image planted in our being. I don’t look at the color for the sake of the color because I see His creative nature in display.
As for the ad, it is beautiful and sweet and I love that GM did it, is standing behind it, AND that they are not allowing the comments (now disabled) to get them off track! Go GM!!!!
I think the colorblind thing bothers me more because it’s more insidious, there is an underlying racism there that is harder to deal with because it’s more difficult to see. Although now that I think about it, those folks are probably easier to have a discussion with and might be more willing to rethink what they are saying. The Klan types I don’t bother with, although I know that they can be educated too for those with the patience to try.
I only saw the commercial on facebook, but am not surprised at the controversy. The post racial society is clearly a myth. It’s funny but I am less irked by the clear out racists, then the defenders of the commercial saying that they are colorblind. I think that that is a larger problem, because they seem to think that acknowledging color and seeing difference is a problem. To me it feels like they actually think that being a person of color is a flaw to be ignored.
Living in London I only saw this commercial because of the controversy. But I am shocked that people have trouble with a mixed race family.
Carole, I too was surprised by the comments, then wondered if I was living in a cave to have been so surprised. But I also wonder if this isn’t the media blowing a few comments out of proportion. I didn’t see the comments on YouTube before they were taken down, but the positive comments far outweighed the racist ones. I did read many of the comments on Reddit. Again, a few racist jerks were shouted down by the majority of normal people. I also got the feeling that at least some of the racist comments on Reddit were posted to try to stir the pot to create a little excitement.
Really? REALLY? Youtube had to dismantle the comments? I can imagine a few raised eyebrows, but only because we do not see enough of, or ANY commercials like this….but the wide spread hate is very saddening.
Tara, I see your point about the insidiousness of it. I feel better after reading the comments about my reaction to the colorblind comments. I felt like maybe I wasn’t giving them the benefit of the doubt. You guys have justified my snarky response. (And I love me some justification.)
This is a great discussion!
I agree with Lisa. I know that for me I don’t notice race because I see families all the time made up of multiple cultures. I wouldn’t say I’m colorblind, but multiracial families are commonplace for me. So, had I viewed the commercial on television before the controversy, I would not have thought anything of it.
I have a multiracial family. I am white, my husband is black and Korean, we have 2 bio kids and we are adopting our 3rd child from Korea. I enjoy the fact that the area we live in is so diverse and accepting of all different type of families.
I think the colorblind comments really are a verbage difference. I truly think those commenters were just saying this was not an uncommon family setting in their view.
I live this issue every day. I am white, my husband is black, we have four interracial children (biological and adopted). I live in a culturally diverse area (Detroit) so it doesn’t come up often, but when we travel I can feel the looks of disaproval all around me and it’s usually surprising to me. My family lives in Arizona and my husband said to me once that he had yet to see another African American person in their town. He noticed and felt out of place. Even in metro detroit if I’m out with my children without my husband I get odd looks as if questionning if my children are mine. My middle son had a girl in his class ask him once if I was his real mother. Even in a culturally diverse neighborhood, the issue of color is all around me. I do think it’s a changing world though and much more acceptable than it has ever been, but there is so much work to do.
Janice, sometimes when we have these discussions of race I hesitate to say that we are making progress because I know that I’ll receive a chorus of “no we’re not” or “only white folks think we’re making progress”. And while I readily concede the point that we have a long way to go, I think you are absolutely right that we’ve come a long way. Thanks for reminding me.
Lisa, I think you’re exactly right now that I think about it. I originally took it to mean that they didn’t even actually notice the color of the actor’s skin since they were so past racial differences. I think now that you have a point, that they meant that the saw the color, but it didn’t register as being noteworthy.
I see the color blind thing as being a verbage thing. Like the difference between asking someone asking about the financial costs of pursuing adoption versus saying how much did you pay. Just me but I see you both as saying the same thing just differently. Like I might say I am hair color blind where I mean I don’t judge you based on your hair color and not that I really can’t see. Some of the commenters talking about not seeing anything but a little girl and her parents were not saying they were really blind but that they didn’t think about race in any significant way. They just saw a girl and her family. Anyway its interesting, educational, and valuable to see the comments on tolerance and on color blind.
There was a comment from someone about being tired of seeing people say to teach tolerance and we should be teaching acceptance that I thought was good point. They said the word tolerance indicated something wrong with other person you are “tolerating” or putting up with versus acceptance sees differences as differences not flaws.
Lisa, I like that. I want to remember it.
Christi, that’s exactly how I watch TV–during commercials I always multi-task (unless it’s the Super Bowl, when the commercials are the main thing I watch). I think you’re probably right that most of the people who said they didn’t notice weren’t actually watching the TV.
Ah yeah that makes sense. I had heard it several times on tv, but plenty of times I’m multitasking and just listening rather than actively watching tv. The first time I actually saw it was because of all this controversy, but by then I was actually paying attention.
Christi, for me at least, it wasn’t the term “colorblind” that seemed odd to me, it was that they said they didn’t even notice that it was an interracial couple. I just found that hard to believe that it didn’t even register. I suppose there are people who are truly past the point of even registering the color of someone’s skin, but I don’t think there are many of them. Or at least that’s what I see as a member of a transracial family.
I think the commercial is great – there should be many more of them. Let’s all write to GM expressing our support for their commercial and then go out and buy more boxes of Cheerios! (Which our kids and I happen to like anyway!)
Marni, I’m not a big cereal eater, but I do like Cheerios–especially now.
Glad I never used that phrase “colorblind” in regards to not using race to judge someone, but I could easily have. Not that I need to justify myself, but I’m not racist – the thought to me is preposterous – so maybe that’s why I can see why saying one is ‘colorblind’ could be well-intending without some hint of racism hiding in the statement. I guess I haven’t viewed that statement as someone said above”like they actually think that being a person of color is a flaw to be ignored.” but like everyone’s color blurs together and none of it matters. I dunno – I grew up in So. Cal with people of all colors around me – never made a difference at all to me what someone’s color was. It just was, what it was. It still is just what it is. Color isn’t how I define someone, except in part, physically… I do, however, see the very valid point that we see color everywhere and it should be celebrated. I guess my point is, just because someone says something like that, doesn’t mean they’re closet (or even unintentional racists) just using terminology that maybe isn’t the clearest.
I don’t understand why this is even a topic of discussion in a society claiming to be modern, civilized and progressive
Deb, I know we are not “there” yet, but I absolutely see that my teens and their generation are further along the road than the rest of society. Hadn’t thought to thank Nick and Disney, but maybe I should. 🙂
I do love the way that kids shows-my daughter is 11 and watches the shows on Nick and Disney that are not animated-and they use actors of all races. When one of the white characters on the show needed to make a music video and they were looking for a girl to be in the video, they chose an african american girl to be his ‘girlfriend’ in the video and they kissed. Maybe the next generation will grow up not seeing this as something different.
Tara, it’s interesting to me that the “I’m colorblind and didn’t even see that they were an interracial couple” line of comments bothered you more. Those comments sure struck me as odd too. The outright racist comment bothered me more, but the color blind comment seemed stranger to me.
Oh, yea, I know….my outcry was just a general public one. You KNOW it’s bad when youtube does not allow comments.
KirstenandAdam, it was the General Mills folks who chose to disable comments on the YouTube posting of the ad, but still your point is well taken.
What a wonderful commercial. So wholesome and I wish there were more realistic families represented. I hate the color blind statement. I SEE COLOR all around me. It’s what makes our world a beautiful place and we are not all the same. My children have wonderful creamy cafe latte brown skin. While I have splotchy beige skin. Let’s stop pretending we don’t see families that are biracial, or transracial. I feel if we had more of these type commercial there wouldn’t be the brohaha going on, and that people who do live in isolated environments that lack diversity wouldn’t be so “scared”.
And to the color blind question, I guess it just depends on perspective. I feel that my 4.5 year old is oblivious at this point. My husband is biracial and my son has friends that are biracial and adopted (who are different races than their parents and/or siblings). He has never questioned why people look different than him or from their parents or siblings. I think he just accepts that this world is made of a variety of beautiful people. I hope that he keeps that wonderful perspective 🙂
I would not have expected that either. As you said, there are plenty of crazies out there though!
CHEERIOS (GENERAL MILLS) IS PROGRESSIVE, INCLUSIVE and most of all A LEADER!
I’m SOOO HAPPY… Cheerios aired a much needed Commercial on Biracial Families and I know it was a difficult decision. With all the racist remarks voiced Cheerios exposed the BIG Elephant in the room.
Cheerios recognizes the Real World’s Population.
All of the Positive remarks OVER POWERD the Negative remarks which informs these Racists that THE REAL WORLD HAS CHANGED. And it isn’t about THEM anymore.
Media is the most influential Market. We all know the Profiles of The Top Executives (Sex, Nationality, etc.) who are the Decision Makers.
My daughter (Tanganyika) wrote a Children’s Series years ago where the Parents of Super Jane were Biracial and the Cast of Children was Multicultural. Pitching the Series was difficult because they wanted her to not have a Biracial Mother/Father for Super
Jane. They also wanted fewer Cultures playing together. I was SOOO proud as Tanganyika’s Mother when she said “NOOO!” It has been hard for her to succeed with the Series but she has never given up. She knows THE REAL WORLD. So THANKS for the Cheerios Commercial giving her a great burst to continue with “Imagination Alley” in order to Entertain ALL Children in THE REAL WORLD. THANK YOU AGAIN CHEERIOS FROM YOUR CUSTOMERS.
I think that the whole interracial thing is overrated. I am sticking to my own kind. We are creating a generation in which the white and black races will no longer exist. It will be a world filled with biracial people.
R.C. and your point?? Why would a world of biracial people be a bad thing. Truth be told, many many of us are a mix of different ethnicities and races already, especially in the US.