You’ve probably heard/seen/read about the latest Cheerios commercial, but in the event that you’ve escaped the uproar, here’s a summary behind the madness: In the ad, a young biracial girl asks her caucasian mother about the health benefits of Cheerios. After her mother assures her that Cheerios are good for the heart, the daughter dumps a box of cereal on the chest of her sleeping dad. He happens to be a dark-skinned african american male, which is what has folks worked up. Read the last sentence again. “He happens to be a dark-skinned african american male, which is what has folks worked up.” Actually, just watch the 30-second commercial posted below to see for yourself just how “offensive” this commercial is. You’re probably scratching your head right now. This sweet, feel-good commercial which depicts a loving, realistic family of our time, has unbelievably drawn so many racist and hateful comments on YouTube that the comment section for the video was disabled. In 2013, you would assume that we as a nation were above and well beyond racism. Interracial relationships and marriages are far more accepted and common – roughly, 15 percent of all marriages are between mixed-race couples. That’s nearly double what it was in 1980, according to Pew Research. Why is this making people uncomfortable? Ads depicting mixed-race families such as the one in the Cheerios commercial aren’t that common. A good number of biracial people spoke up about how wonderful it was to see a family that reflected their own. Meagan Hatcher-Mays wrote a great article for Jezebel about being biracial and what the Cheerios commercial meant to her:
I am biracial. My mom is black and my dad is white. When I was growing up, there were no families on television that resembled mine. My family was something of an anomaly in the overwhelmingly white neighborhood of Seattle where I lived. When I was with my mom, people would look at me and ask, “What is she?” When I was with my dad, people would ask, “Is she Italian?” Because this is definitely the kind of information that strangers are entitled to.
But life was even more confusing for my brother. He was born with blond, curly hair and bright blue eyes. He looked nothing like my mom. When they were alone together, well, that’s when shit got real. The white mothers in my neighborhood not only assumed my mom was my brother’s nanny, but they inquired after her services. Single brows were raised when my mom assured these awful women that she was, in fact, the biological mother of my brother.
This commercial is a huge step for interracial families like mine who want to be seen in public together and maybe eat some heart-healthy snacks. But it also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people. Often we’re treated like exotic flowers, who should feel complimented when people say stuff to us like, “All biracial women are so beautiful” or “I would kill for your skin.” One of the hardest things about growing up the way I did is feeling like you need to choose one racial identity over another just to fit in. The fact that strangers constantly ask you to identify yourself (forcing you to put yourself in a category) makes you feel conspicuous and gazed upon. You catch strangers looking at you. You know what they want to ask you. You know that they won’t leave you alone until you give them a rundown of your heritage.
So, this is just a stupid commercial about Cheerios but it means a lot to me. It shows interracial families and their children being normal and cute, not something to gawk at or to question. Hopefully this commercial will lead to even more positive representations of not just interracial families, but all kinds of non-traditional families. To Cheerios, I give you one internet high-five, for doing your part to normalize families like mine and people like me.
Many more people spoke up either through similar internet posts or on social media (you’ll find tons of videos on youtube just by searching “Cheerios commercial”). W. Kamau Bell‘s FX show Totally Biased tackled the conversation from a well-rounded comical point of view. In the video below, Kamau hilariously ties in how the Cheerios family reminds him of his own, addresses some of the hateful Youtube comments that have since been hidden on the commercial’s page and takes shots at the racist “why can’t Black people move back to Africa?” stance. Again, it’s depressing to think that in 2013, this is even an issue – that people are even capable of thinking these things. It is insanity to believe that people should only love and reproduce within their own race (or gender, for that matter) and that children born of interracial families do not deserve the same respect and acknowledgement that children from parents of the same race do. But there is still good news: General Mills stands by the ad and has no plans to pull it. Camille Gibson, VP of Marketing for Cheerios, told Gawker in a statement:
“Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”
And, tons of mixed families are publicly showing their support for Cheerios. Maybe the attention this particular commercial generated will encourage more companies to portray mixed families, or at least bring more attention to a still-existing problem within our society that needs to be addressed. By the way, now this awesome hater response video exists! Sources: Philly.com, Jezebel, Sinuousmag