June 14th, 2013

Cheerios mixes it up, and “post-racial” America turns it up

Cheerios recently posted one of its signature commercials with a cute little girl and her parents. This was nothing unusual except for the fact that the father was African-American, the mother Caucasian, and the daughter extremely cute – and of course, mixed-race. Posted on their YouTube channel not even two weeks ago, the viral advertisement titled “Just Checking” has become another example of how social media serves as a window to the world in which we currently live.

Ever since the election of President Barack Obama, the idea of a “post-racial America” has been touted and discussed in various media outlets.  Some thought that the election of the first African-American President in this country was supposed to magically eradicate an ideology and way of life that has been in existence since this country’s founding, but with major politicians hurling racial slurs at the country’s Commander in Chief, talking about citizens in a derogatory manner in the very public eye of media, the idea of respect has seemingly gone out the window at the levels where responsibility and decency are supposed to be housed and demonstrated. If elected officials, leaders, media figures and people with wide media access can say what they want without consequence about Black people, the President of the United States, and anyone else that fits in the “other” category, why would Cheerios, a cereal brand, be exempt from the wrath of ignorance that still is wide-swept in this country?

Cheerios had high viewer ratings for the commercials, which is most likely attributed to the fact that the family is representative of many American families and actually has people of color as primary characters. General Mills Vice President Camille Gibson stated that the move to disable the comments section was because many of them “…in our view were not family-friendly and that was really the trigger for us to pull them off.” The company also supported the ad by saying, “there are all kinds of families in America and Cheerios celebrates them all.”

While I won’t get into the YouTube comments that were made, I do think that the sheer rarity of seeing brown, mixed, and other people in the media is why ignorance has such a solid platform to stand on. When a young child has to respond to a lot of ignorant folk who commented on her viral commercial, it makes you wonder if people are that uncomfortable with the fact that America is full of people that are not white. America is also most certainly not post-racial and, on the contrary, is still quite racist. When a cereal company has to disable its comments section, that speaks volumes. After reading threads on various articles that either skirted the issue of race or addressed it head on, I found myself wishing more sites would moderate the madness and bickering that often ensues between many different people expressing their viewpoints.

With social media as a platform that is accessible by anyone, I do think it’s high time that the media we consume display a more accurate portrayal of America. Perhaps then, one bi-racial cereal commercial wouldn’t force a company to shut down its comments section because there would be so many commercials, television shows, and other media out there reflecting the diversity of our country. That is asking for a lot, but the social media storm that brews every time race is brought up reflects that not only is the “post-racial” concept non-existent, but that racism is embedded in this culture as firmly as ever. Even as we get more diverse in population, there are not enough media surrounding us that demonstrate the reality of our time.

– Anne Desrosiers

Anne Desrosiers is the founder and Executive Director of The World is Your Oyster, nonprofit consultant and former Americorps Volunteer in Service to America. As an avid media consumer, Anne enjoys engaging in the critique and debate of improving what we see, hear and eventually become as a result of media and its influence on our lives.

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