A Little Girl, A Bowl of Cheerios, and A Whole Lot of Hate

It’s somewhat ironic that a 30 second Cheerios commercial could show just how far America has to go when it comes to race and media.

The Cheerios commercial that has ignited a racist backlash is rather simple in its premise. A young girl – who happens to be biracial – asks her mother if Cheerios are good for your heart. Her mother responds that they are indeed healthy for your heart. The commercial then cuts to her sleeping father on the couch who awakens to see an avalanche of Cheerios on his chest. Here’s how it all plays out:

As you can see, the mother is white and the father is black. More than a few people apparently couldn’t stand to see an interracial couple being featured in a commercial in 2013 America. What followed were some pretty nasty and hateful comments left on the commercial’s Youtube page. The vitriol was so bad that General Mills (the brand that makes Cheerios) disabled comments on the page.

Now what does this commercial say about race relations in 2013 America? That there is still much work to be done. Many people want to believe that race is not as big of an issue as it was say in the 50s and 60s, however I tend to believe that race isn’t as public a topic as it used to be.

What these hateful comments and this backlash shows is that unfortunately there are still many who harbor racist views of not just blacks, but a multitude of people within our society. This was true in the 60s as well. The key difference? Today, people (by and large) aren’t that stupid to express their racist attitudes in public. It’s a lot easier to spew hatred anomalously via the the black box that is the internet. And these racist comments aren’t limited to commercials either. This has been a problem in the gaming community for years and the issue was addressed at this year’s SXSW festival.

Ultimately, despite the racist attitudes of many, it’s worth noting that there were a number of people who supported the Cheerios commercial for its diversity. At a time when American families are integrating more than ever, this commercial is a reflection of the changing makeup of society, if not changing thoughts. Perhaps Camille Gibson, who is the vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said it best when she stated, “We felt like we were reflecting the American family.”

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King and His Enduring Legacy 45 Years Later

April 4th, 1968, is a day that many people of an older generation will never forget. Neither should any of us.
For that was the day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis,Tennessee. Following his assassination, President Lyndon Johnson announced a day of mourning for the man who was instrumental in the struggle for racial equality in the United States. In the aftermath of King’s death, there was grief, despair, anger, rage, and sadly, riots. Despite this however, King’s legacy in the 45 years proceeding his death, has only become more emblazoned in our national consciousness.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the select few African Americans to have their story told and taught on a national level within our school system. The man certainly has earned the recognition to say the least. From attending Morehouse College at 15-years-old, to starting out as a young preacher in Alabama, to leading and organizing the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56, King certainly did much in a short period of time. King is perhaps best remembered for the March on Washington, where it was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, in which he gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in front of more than 200,000 people. If there’s one memory that people have of King, it’s probably that one.
It’s worth noting that in the days before he was assassinated, King had been meeting with Memphis sanitation workers who were fighting for better working conditions. In the five years following his “I Have A Dream” speech, the crowds weren’t as large, but King’s message nevertheless remained influential. His call for nonviolence as a means of protest was widely used by many in regards to the Vietnam War that was raging at the time. King steadfastly opposed the war and at the time of his death, was greatly concerned about the plight of the impoverished in America.
Since Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, America has indeed come a long way. The 1964 Civil Rights Act opened the door for many people of color to greater access to education, job opportunities, and political aspirations. Make no mistake, there is no Barack Obama without Dr. King and the countless others (not just black folks either) who gave their hearts and lives for a free and equal America. Dr. King, Thank You.

From the Black Media Archive Podcast: