Cheerios made huge strides by featuring a “controversial” interracial family in their advertisements – not once, but twice – the latest airing during Super Bowl Sunday.
The fictional family is made up of actors – a black dad, white mom, and their young daughter.
The first commercial, which aired in May 2013, drew immediate viewer feedback. Sadly, the majority of the earliest comments was negative. So negative that the comments section had to be disabled.
The common rule, “If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all,” doesn’t exactly translate online. Comments tend to be a lot more critical when typed versus spoken.
After the initial backlash, General Mills, which owns Cheerios, received an outpouring of support from viewers. The company decided to sink an additional $4 million investment into their follow-up Super Bowl ad that featured the same family.
I recently had a friend share a video with me that asked kids for their opinions on the first Cheerios ad. The interviewer asked open-ended questions like, “What did you think of the family?” and “Do you have any idea about why people are angry about the parents in this commercial?”
The children’s answers are worth listening to with an open mind.
Although they are visibly shocked upon realizing that racism still exists to the extent it does, their overall response is one of love. “You don’t have to leave mean comments,” one says. “Think about those people…they probably feel horrible,” echoes another.
Watching their reactions made me think about the little kids I see everyday at preschool when I drop off and pick up my youngest. Let me give you a listen into the types of conversations I hear.
She forgot to wear her crazy socks so I gave her a hug.
He doesn’t have a dog like us, but his cat is cute.
She just moved here and is shy. We shared crayons.
I took his snack. (Come on, you didn’t expect them all to be innocent and selfless, did you?)
Now, let me tell you what I don’t hear.
She doesn’t practice the right religion.
I feel like her family make-up is unethical and wrong.
He voted for the wrong politician.
Her skin color makes me feel uncomfortable.
We are all entitled to our own opinions and I’ll be damned if I don’t do everything within my power to respect those who have different opinions than my own. What I cannot respect are people who chastise and judge others because they disagree with their beliefs, because they don’t agree with who they love, and because they don’t respect human differences.
Let me leave you with one of the best stories I’ve heard.
Today is Rosa Finnegan’s 102nd birthday. She gives a precious glimpse into her life while giving everyone hope that it’s never too late to love thy neighbor.
Give five minutes of your time to listen to her interview with NPR.
Trust me. You won’t regret it.
Rosa Finnegan in her nursing home in Massachusetts. c/o NPR
Written by Heidi Woodard