With all the controversy surrounding major brands like Pepsi and Dove this year — specifically in regard to having racially offensive undertones — you’d think other brands would be paying closer attention to what they put into the world. However, this week, Kellogg’s faced backlash over a racist cereal box design. The company in charge of creating one of our favorite cereals fumbled with the artwork on their Corn Pops box, and an observant Twitter user was quick to call them out.
The design in question featured animated pops hanging out at the mall, riding on skateboards, playing in the arcade, splashing around in a nearby fountain, and even taking selfies — which seems like a fun and harmless idea…at first glance.
When you look closer, you’ll notice that there’s a single pop who’s darker than all the others — and he’s dressed as the janitor, cleaning up after everyone else’s fun (and, in fact, is the only pop with a designated job).
The design didn’t sit well with writer Saladin Ahmed, and he pointed the discrepancy out to the company via Twitter.
Ahmed said he realizes this was a tiny detail, but when he noticed his kid staring at the design over breakfast, he realized millions of other kids were doing the same…and what message would they be taking away?
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working as a janitor — it’s both a respectable and important job — the design sends a subtle but concrete cue that a dark-skinned person works in the service of everyone else, and helps to normalize insidious racial stereotypes. We think we can all agree this is not a message we want to send to our children.
After Ahmed’s tweet, The Kellogg Company responded, tweeting at Ahmed, “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”
In a statement to USA Today, company spokesman Kris Charles said:
In a world where stereotypes about people of color are still all around us, it’s not hard to see why Ahmed was angry. And with so many steps involved with product design and marketing, we’re not sure how brands keep making the same mistakes. But we’re glad to see that Kellogg’s was willing to update their design ASAP. It was a crucial change.