Last week, Cheerios released the latest and greatest commercial in their campaign to reach the family-oriented, heart-healthy consumer. Per the usual, the 30 second spot featured an adorable child trying to understand how a cereal is good for your heart. This time, the Cheerios cutie asked her mom if the crunchy Os were, in fact, good for your heart like her daddy told her. This time, the sweet little star of the advertisement poured Cheerios on her dad’s chest, where she believed his heart to be, while he was napping. This time, a negative social media firestorm erupted over the fact that the mom on the television was white, the dad was black and that lovable little girl was bi-racial.
Shortly after the release of the commercial featuring the mixed-race family, there was a loud racist backlash via YouTube; the video received more than 500 dislikes and was tarnished with comments referencing Nazis, “troglodytes” and racial genocide before General Mills took action. The incomprehensible feedback forced the company to close the comments section below the video, but unfortunately, the hatred did not end there. It was reported that the anonymous racists among us took to the cereal’s Facebook page to express their distaste for Cheerios’ display of a modern family. Apparently, the ad was “disgusting” and watching it made them “want to vomit.” The most ruthless cyber bullies went as far as to say they were shocked that a black father would stay with his family.
Despite the loud, ignorant uproar, Cheerios has proclaimed that they stand behind their ad and will continue to run the commercial for its scheduled time period. Without skipping a beat, the cereal giant completely side-stepped the hatred and announced, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.” While I commend and applaud the company for taking the high road, I guess I am just not that understanding.
Let’s talk for a minute about how completely unacceptable racism is. There was an ugly point in time during our history where a large majority of the population believed separate was equal and that African Americans were a lesser people because of the color of their skin. It was my understanding that anyone with half a heart and even the smallest semblance of common sense now understood the grave mistakes of those who came before us. Over the years, courageous men and women have changed the world by refusing to sit in the back of the bus; by risking their lives in war and in protest in the name of equality; and by having dreams that they chose to share and use to inspire an entire nation. Members of all races have stood up load and proud, at times putting themselves in harm’s way or grave danger so that we could live in a world free of the ignorance and hate previous generations found status quo.
How far we have come, how far we have to go. Despite monumental social movements, the significant rise in bi-racial and interethnic couples in our society and the fact that we have a bi-racial sitting president, we are beginning to see that people who we call peers and fellow Americans are still no better than those from decades past; no more advanced in their thinking than the individuals who insisted that different races required different bathrooms. In fact, they represent a worse kind of intolerance because they sit behind a keyboard and anonymously spread their ignorance to a population working to build a culture built on acceptance and love. Too many among us have yet to learn that opinions, no matter how closed-minded they may be, and free speech are rights that we share but it is never appropriate or acceptable to use those rights to spout off hateful speech and breed intolerance.
YouTube has become a notorious breeding ground for racism, the comments sections of videos created by minorities almost always tagged with slurs and hateful speech. This week on the Today Show, Star Jones expressed her belief that social media has become a modern day supremacy of sorts when she said, “ Social media is the new kind of Ku Klux Klan white hood; it allows you to be anonymous and say things you would never say to a person to their face.” Many have disagreed with the lawyer and regular morning show pundit, saying that the comparison of the two is harsh and implies that anonymous commentators and the KKK have much more in common than they truly do; that the actions of the online community are not as severe as the behavior displayed by white supremacist groups. I say that hate is hate and the comparison is just. Anyone who remotely stands up for a person who displays such deplorable behavior, anonymously spreading such disgusting language and hateful views of others, only breeds continued racism. Whether publicly or privately, any display of racist behavior is unacceptable in the world that we live in and no hate crime is worse than another.
Now that I have had the chance to thoroughly express how unacceptable this entire scenario is, allow me to shout from the rooftops how grateful I am for General Mills’ take on the modern family. In a world where ignorance clearly still exists, despite our best efforts to snuff it out, I couldn’t be more thankful that there are major brands willing to push acceptance and love into mainstream media. Sure, it is only a thirty-second television spot and Cheerios isn’t the first or only brand to take a stand, but they are helping to continually pave the way here and now. Cheerios is fighting the good fight and for that, they should be commended.
As years have passed and my cousins have married, our family has expanded in remarkable ways. We have become a mini melting pot through both marriage and birth and I would seriously challenge you to find children more adorable and loving than the ones I spend my holidays with. It is nothing short of unacceptable for them or any other child to grow up in a world where they feel as if they might not “belong”; in a world where they might think they don’t fit the mold. There is no mold. There is no right or wrong or better or best type of family. There are all types of families, all equally amazing in their own ways and we all fit here. I believe there will come a day when everyone understands this very simple notion but, until then, despite the short-sightedness of some, I will continue to cheer loudly for the good guys; the ones who know that love is love and don’t really understand why anyone would see it any other way.
Thank you Cheerios, for continuing to spread love and acceptance, for showing millions around the world that while families may vary in shape, size and color, they are all equally wonderful and important in their own way. You have given us yet another reason to love Cheerios. We raise our spoons to you!
Featured Image via Cheerios