Of bigots, basements and bowls of Cheerios
Controversy swirls around a new Cheerios ad featuring an interracial family. In the ad, a clearly biracial child asks her white mother if Cheerios are healthy. Her mother explains the way the cereal purportedly helps lower cholesterol makes it heart healthy. The little girl runs off with the Cheerios box. Cut to a scene of the girl’s black father waking up on the couch with a pile of Cheerios covering his chest.
General Mills had to disable comments on YouTube for the commercial because of the hateful, racist posts the ad garnered. Though the overwhelming majority of the comments were supportive, still there were those that referenced Nazis and disparaged African-Americans.
No doubt a large part of this story is just about YouTube. If you go to the comments section of almost any YouTube video you’ll see some of the most vile comments from hateful trolls. These are most likely jobless Xbox-playing guys, living with their mothers, whose only sexual outlet is staring out their basement window watching the elderly neighbor unload her groceries from her car while hoping a breeze blows her dress up. The anonymity of the Internet allows them to give in to their id.
This cannot be overstated. The Internet allows people to stop being polite. People check their political correctness at the door but they also check their civility. They let out those dark emotions that they keep under wraps. For these cowardly folks, they know that they couldn’t say these hateful things face to face without ending up with someone’s shoe buried in their ass. But hiding online, they’re Billy Badass with a keyboard.
But the other part of the story is this backlash in America that we’ve seen since Barack Obama won the White House. It’s not just that Obama is African-American — he’s half white. He embodies the browning of America. It’s not only a change in the racial composition of the country that rubs some the wrong way, but also change in terms of jobs, housing, gay rights, immigration, social norms, the role of religion and battles over women’s and minority rights that have provoked a backlash mostly from a sliver of white men. Folks are more likely to show their true colors and it’s not pretty.
That Cheerios commercial is me. When I sit down to Sunday dinner with my white girlfriend, her white-Japanese daughter, and her daughter’s black husband and their two multi-racial children, I’m looking at the new America. Two of my brothers are married to white women and have biracial children. We’re here.
It’s fitting that this issue is coming to the fore now. June 12 marks the 46th anniversary of Virginia vs. Loving, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in America. According to the 2010 Census, 1 in 10 marriages is interracial while 1 in 5 unmarried couples are among people of different races. It makes sense that advertisers are going to reflect that change in society.
I’ll reiterate that we’re talking about a minority of people with these views. There are plenty of folks who embrace the idea that change doesn’t weaken America.
But the bottom line is that we are America, too. We’re not going anywhere. In fact, the trend lines show a browner, more Latino, gay-friendly America is on deck. General Mills understands that. For the haters, get used to that lonely basement and spewing your vitriol into cyberspace. Shake your fist. Try out a virtual hood. Goosestep around the basement. Be pissed off.
We’re still here… dating your sister.
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See the Cheerios commercial here: http://youtu.be/kYofm5d5Xdw