Okay, if you haven’t already seen the Cheerios commercial starring a beautifully cast biracial child that was intended to be sweet, but quickly turned into a scandal, well…here you go:
Now what about that well-scripted moment of tenderness could possibly get people worked up? Oh, it turns out in this day and age, acknowledging the reality of interracial families is still just enough fuel to drive bigots to take to the Internet and express their outrage that people of different skin colors mix, mingle, marry and make babies. Shocker, I know!
A few different folks in my social circle first made me aware of the racist reactions in conversations I’ve had over the last few days since the commercial debuted. I was asked to talk about it before I’d even seen it and of course, upon viewing it, it’s as tame (tamer?) than I expected. But it’s buzzworthiness made me wonder: is the reaction only coming from the usual suspects? From small-minded racists who wanted to express their heinous, hillbilly reasoning about why this commercial is a sign of the apocalypse while hiding behind the anonymity of a Web site’s comments section?
Turns out there’s been plenty of response from the more intelligent beings among us as well. Whew! Here are a few of my favorites so far:
-In Jezebel, contributing writer Meagan Hatcher-Mays, writes about growing up biracial and a few recent real-life cases of — let’s call it “public confusion” — over interracial family dynamics.
…Just last week (IN TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN), a white father in Virginia was suspected by a Walmart security guard of kidnapping after he made the mistake of being seen in public with his own biracial children. A customer reported the father to the security guard after seeing him in the parking lot with his children and deeming the scene “strange.” Local police were dispatched to the family’s home to investigate. The children were made to positively identify their own parents, in their own home. As dumb as this sounds, this Cheerios commercial at least provides idiots in the parking lot at Walmart a foundation of knowledge about interracial families. I don’t necessarily want strangers to look at me with my parents and think “CHEERIOS FAMILY,” but if the alternative is bailing my dad out jail, then I guess I’ll take it.
-A blogger on one of my other favorite femme sites, Bust, had this to say about the onslaught of racist comments that cause Cheerios to ultimately close its YouTube comments section:
Comments include some truly ridiculous thoughts on “race-mixing,” and a lack of “resources, and opportunities for whites” in the future. And don’t forget the always hilarious fear-of-becoming-a-minority-argument. That one always gets a kicker.
Of course, after a slew of hope-devouring comments always comes an outpouring of intelligent, nuanced arguments countering the trolls. Many users are praising the commercial for its portrayal of interracial families in the media, while others basically ate the heads off of their narrow-minded villains.
-And my favorite came from NPR editor Tanya Ballard Brown, who expressed her confusion over the backlash, quickly dismissed it, and decided instead to focus on advertising’s “Black people problem”:
Here’s the thing: We’re used to companies targeting minorities and jacking it up…
But with this Cheerios commercial, the company seems to have done everything right. Cute little girl. A mom, a dad. A box of Cheerios. Love, caring. The written statement I got from Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, was as warm and fuzzy and inoffensive as the commercial itself: “At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”
And still, there was blowback.
Too many black folks, not enough black folks. How does a company market to anyone in the era of social media when everyone is a critic? What can you do? *pulls hair, screams*
Aside from the obvious, one thing I think is so interesting about this ad is the name of the campaign. Cheerios (or someone at its parent company General Mills) decided to call this commercial “Just Checking.” The little girl asks her mom to verify something she heard, but she never actually utters the phrase “just checking” in the spot. Am I assuming too much to think that maybe the ad-heads at Cheerios anticipated this type of outrageous criticism when they decided to push the envelope with their casting choices? That, perhaps, they were “just checking” to see if this world has actually changed for the better or do we too often fool ourselves that we exist in a more tolerant, peaceful, harmonious society? Maybe. Maybe not. But putting ourselves in check and challenging our comfortable notions is always a “heart-healthy” move in my opinion. Cheers to Cheerios.