I know I can trust you not to tell another soul what I’m about to confess. The truth is I’m not a very nice person, and I may even be a hypocrite as well as a closet bigot.
I came to this conclusion recently after seeing the new Cheerios commercial.
Cheerios' latest ad features a white mother, black father, and their daughter. After the girl's mom tells her daughter about the iconic cereal's health benefits, specifically, that it's "heart healthy," the young girl dumps Cheerios on her sleeping father's chest. The spot ends with the word, "Love."
The little girl is precious. Mom and Dad are attractive; the domestic scene charming. The idea of the child pouring cereal onto her daddy’s chest to protect his heart is too cute for words.
So, why did my jaw drop and my discomfort level rise at seeing this sweet little vignette about a child’s love?
Maybe because I was born in Alabama into an extended family of otherwise decent, Christian folks who had no affection or tolerance for their black neighbors. Maybe because my grandfather and uncles were KKK members. Maybe because, growing up, I heard racial slurs until they played like malevolent mantras in my head.
Maybe because my age places me in a particularly unenlightened generation where that issue is concerned. Maybe my discomfort comes from genetic, environmental, AND generational origins.
I’m sure I could find more excuses. I’ll work on that.
What in the name of the Almighty is wrong with me?
I have black friends. (Don’t we whites just LOVE to say that?) The interracial couples of my acquaintance are lovely, good people who have the same problems, sorrows, challenges, blessings, and joys as I have.
I am completely at ease in their company. Maybe because we’ve taken the time and effort to get to know one another.
Yet, that commercial still bothered me. And apparently, for many viewers, their subsequent reaction was not only “bothered” but downright hateful. At least those folks, however nasty they may be, are honest. They wear their bigotry and intolerance like a badge of honor.
But me? I’ll just hang out in the closet, wondering why I’m not the nice person I thought I was. Wondering how I would react if my son or daughter fell in love with someone of a different race and wanted to get married.
Despite it being 2013 and fears about miscegenation being largely a thing of the past, the controversy over that commercial has drawn out the Internet’s “worst trolls” who have stirred up a lot of hatred for a fictional mother, father, and their adorable daughter.
Cheerios posted their new commercial to their YouTube page about two weeks ago. It quickly elicited more than 265,000 views, with a great number of the commenters posting vitriolic, racist remarks aimed at the company for its portrayal of a mixed-race family.
According to AdWeek, which reports on advertising trends, the commercial was developed by New York agency Saatchi & Saatchi, partly as a “political statement” targeting those who are not in tune with the fact that hundreds of thousands of American couples are interracial. Editor Tim Nudd noted that, as a result, the YouTube comment section “predictably … devolved into an endless flame war, with references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes’ and ‘racial genocide.’” Consequently, the comment section was shut down.
“At what point will an ad like this just seem normal?” Nudd asked.
OK, I can pat myself on the back that I’m not an Internet troll, a hater, or a mean-spirited racist. I would never submit an unkind comment on that cereal’s site. And I’ll continue to buy and eat Cheerios.
Maybe, I’m worse than those “in-your-face” racists. My uneasy response to the ad troubles me because it reveals a side of myself I don’t like. I may appear outwardly to follow Christ’s commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you. … By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Diary, how can I claim to be a person of love if I cringe at the love and happiness of a family no matter how culturally or racially blended?
Well, anyway, I’m counting on you to keep my hypocrisy a secret, just between you and me. I’d be so ashamed if anyone else knew.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.