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