I consider it a good thing that it took me longer than usual to settle on what I was going to write about this month. That means there has been little going on, either in my life or in local news that has ruffled my feathers as of late. So I went to the place I am usually guaranteed to find something to rant about: my Facebook news feed. And, lo and behold, inspiration struck.
Perhaps you have heard about what I’m calling “Cheerios-gate.” In a nutshell, Cheerios (you know, breakfast cereal … ground-breaking stuff here) has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy with its latest TV ad. So much so that parent company General Mills had to disable the comments feature on its YouTube page. If you haven’t heard about Cheerios-gate, you might be wondering, “What on earth could Cheerios have done to offend so many people?” The answer is: They featured an interracial family in their ad. In the 30-second spot, a (white) woman talks to her (mixed) daughter about the health benefits of Cheerios, and when the well-intentioned girl learns about how Cheerios are good for her (black) dad’s heart, she covers him in cereal while he naps on the couch. Everyone I know (myself included) gets a little misty-eyed at this innocent display of care and devotion between a child and her parents, but apparently more than a few of our fellow citizens were so offended by this overt display of diversity that they took to the Internet to voice their (racist) objections.
I have been around the Internet long enough to know that there is a certain subset of the population that will hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace to spout heinous things they wouldn’t dare say in front of their mothers. Heck, even some of my favorite puppy videos on YouTube are followed by random and hateful comments, and who doesn’t love puppies? I also know that some of these people will say things they don’t necessarily believe in order to bait others into pointless, scorn-filled screeds. But as my mother always said, “You can’t fix stupid.”
However, I am still hopeful enough (or naïve enough, whichever you prefer) to believe that you can fix ignorance. Let’s just do a quick reality check: The year is 2013. We are nearly 50 years removed from the passage of the Civil Rights Act and more than 50 years removed from desegregation. So it makes me wonder, where will we be in another 50 years? Are there things that seem bizarre to us now that will be completely normal two generations from now? Here’s another reality check: Interracial families are not unusual. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, interracial marriages account for 1 in every 12 marriages in the United States. That is a 28 percent increase over a period of 10 years. Interestingly, there are actually more interracial marriages taking place in the South (14 percent of the total) than in the Northeast (13 percent) and Midwest (11 percent), so regional biases also seem to be going by the wayside.
Kudos to Cheerios for recognizing the importance of family, while ignoring what that family looks like. “At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all,” Camille Gibson, Cheerios vice president of marketing, told Gawker. As an aunt to four (mixed) nieces and nephews, I look forward to the day when stories like this no longer cross my news feed. I will gladly find my inspiration for this column elsewhere.