General Mills CEO: Doubling down on mixed-race commercial was ‘right thing’ to do

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-24 20:24Z by Steven

General Mills CEO: Doubling down on mixed-race commercial was ‘right thing’ to do

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Nick Halter, Staff Reporter

General Mills Inc. CEO Ken Powell told a crowd of minority business owners Tuesday that his company didn’t give into racist hate mail when it doubled down on a Cheerios commercial that featured a mixed-race family.

“Doing the right thing ended up being the right thing for the brand,” Powell said, noting that 90 percent of the response to the commercial was supportive.

Powell was speaking about the 2013 Cheerios commercial featuring Gracie, the daughter of a black man and white woman. After nasty online comments and emails, General Mills made a second commercial for this year’s Superbowl that got rave reviews…

Read the entire article here.

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Where Is My Family on TV?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-11 04:33Z by Steven

Where Is My Family on TV?

The New York Times

Jenna Wortham, Technology Reporter

One of my earliest memories is of sitting in an idling car with my mom and sister outside a convenience store in Virginia. Dad’s inside, buying cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets. Suddenly, a wild-eyed man appears at the driver-side window, yelling about white women and black men and how they don’t belong together. My mother goes feral, blocking his access to us. My father runs out, furious and swearing, before driving us away. I don’t remember what happened next, just a confusing and searing shame about the ugliness that the sight of my family could provoke.

I hadn’t thought about that in years. But it bubbled up last spring in response to the vitriolic reactions to a Cheerios commercial showing a family that echoed my own: black dad, white mom, mocha-skinned little girl with soft curly hair. The commercial was uploaded to YouTube, where it provoked such foul, overtly racist reactions that General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, decided to delete all of the comments. The memory bubbled up once again last weekend when the same family appeared in a second Cheerios commercial, just as mild and sweet-tempered, shown during the Super Bowl. That one, too, drew online criticism, if not as intense.

Sticks and stones, the saying goes, especially on the Internet. But the outpouring of disgust about an innocuous 30-second marketing spot may signal something deeper at work, a denial of the reality that the face of our nation is changing, and fast.

According to a 2012 Census Bureau report, mixed-race Americans, while still a small minority, are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country, driven by immigration and an uptick in intermarriage. Yet while there are some very public examples of seemingly stable mixed-race families — the de Blasios of New York or even Kim, Kanye and sweet baby Nori come to mind — they are remarkably absent from our screens. (Our biracial president does get his share of screen time, of course.)…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Cheerios revisits mixed-race family for Super Bowl spot

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-01-29 16:55Z by Steven

Cheerios revisits mixed-race family for Super Bowl spot


Ben Popken, Senior Staff Writer/Editor

For its first ever Super Bowl ad, Cheerios is telling racists to “stick a spoon in it.”

General Mills is portraying in its big game spot the same mixed-race family that drew so many hateful remarks on YouTube last May that the manufacturer had to disable comments on the video. The bigot backlash itself provoked a bigger backlash by Americans who supported the video. The clip ended up racking up over 5 million views.

In the new ad, a black father uses pieces of the cereal on the kitchen table to represent the members of the family and explain to his young bi-racial daughter Gracie how she’s getting a baby brother. Her white, pregnant mother looks on and makes a surprised face when the father assents after Gracie uses the cereal to bargain for a new puppy…

Read the entire article here.

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Fitting Into the Right Box: Multiracial America on the Rise

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-10-19 23:53Z by Steven

Fitting Into the Right Box: Multiracial America on the Rise

Brown Political Review

Meg Sullivan

As swimmer Michael Phelps knows, one of the highest priorities of food corporations is maintaining their squeaky clean mainstream appeal. This usually involves companies giving wide berth to any manner of controversy, but Cheerios ignored this policy four months ago. In June, the cereal company released a 30 second television commercial that featured a mixed race married couple. The only detail of the ad that deviated from standard cereal advertisement conventions was black man and white woman actors playing the parents in the all-American family.

Whether or not Cheerios predicted the commotion their commercial would cause, we don’t know. Regardless, the ad first met backlash–negative reactions drove YouTube to disable comments on the online video–but then an overwhelming show of support from Americans. The multiracial community applauded Cheerios for depicting a family on television that looked more like theirs.

Aside from generating good publicity for Cheerios, the advertisement has drawn attention to the growing number of mixed race marriages and multiracial children in the United States. In 2010, 8.4 percent of all marriages were between individuals of a different race or ethnicity

Read the entire article here.

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Race on the Menu: Cheerios, Paula Deen, with Some Supreme Court for Dessert

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-25 01:03Z by Steven

Race on the Menu: Cheerios, Paula Deen, with Some Supreme Court for Dessert

brianbantum: theology, culture, teaching and life in-between

Brian Bantum, Assistant Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University

It’s been a bad month. For some reason incidents and issues of race seems to appear like death, in groups of three. They clump together, overwhelming those whom they hurt and they come too quickly for others to process…

…But I am becoming less convinced that we will be able to have rational conversations about the facts of the cases, about how race functions in our society, what the consequences for our ignorance are for people of color. We cannot have these conversations because I am not sure we have really grappled with the reality of our condition as American citizens. We do not see ourselves as we really are. While some imagine themselves as the white wife and others as the black husband, what we fail to understand is that we are all the mixed race child. Regardless of our race we are children of this interracial union called America. We are the progeny of a tragic, dark, difficult history that we bear in our skin, even while we exhibit many wonderful possibilities.

But we will never move forward until we can admit who we are…

Read the entire article here.

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“The One and Only Cheerios”~ The “NEW” American Family?

Posted in Audio, Census/Demographics, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-07-13 23:18Z by Steven

“The One and Only Cheerios”~ The “NEW” American Family?

Mixed Race Radio
Blog Talk Radio
2013-07-10, 16:00Z (12:00 EDT)

Tiffany Rae Reid, Host

Join us on Wednesday July 10th, 2013 as we explore the newest General Mills Cheerios commercial that recently debuted. We will discuss the backlash and speak with an all-star guest line-up while exploring what many of us have known for years: The “NEW” American family is mixed, blended, and splendid!

Listen to the episode here.

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Guest: The fury over a Cheerios ad and an interracial family

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-25 04:16Z by Steven

Guest: The fury over a Cheerios ad and an interracial family

The Seattle Times

Ralina Joseph, Associate Professor of Communication
University of Washington

The response to a Cheerios TV ad exposes American discomfort with interracial families, writes guest columnist Ralina Joseph

A RECENT Cheerios television ad has all of the elements that viewers usually glaze over because of their sheer ubiquity: a light-filled, eat-in kitchen with an attractive mother checking off tasks at the table, a button-down shirt and slacks-wearing father indulging in a quick after-work nap and a chubby-cheeked, curly-haired 6-year-old girl with a lisp.

But instead of disappearing into the ether, as TV spots tend to, this particular nuclear family advertisement has sparked such fury that Cheerios’ YouTube channel was forced to disable its comments section.

Why? Because the mother is white, the father is black, and the girl appears to be their biological, mixed-race child…

…Anti-miscegenation laws, on the books in some states in this country from 1661 to 1967, were justified by fear of such couplings and their result. In the 1930s, Washington state led the country in striking down attempts to ban interracial marriage…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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For some, Cheerios commercial crossed a line by depicting mixed-race family as normal

Posted in Articles, Audio, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-11 21:23Z by Steven

For some, Cheerios commercial crossed a line by depicting mixed-race family as normal

The Daily Circuit
MPR News
Minnesota Public Radio

You might not think a cereal commercial would serve as a vehicle for a heartfelt conversation about race, but that seems to be what’s happening — both around the country and on The Daily Circuit.

Not all of that conversation is respectful. Some of the reactions to the current Cheerios commercial were so ugly, the company asked YouTube to turn off its comments function.

What made some watchers angry was the racial mix of the family depicted by the commercial…

…. But in some parts of the country, especially in rural America, such images still take some getting used to.

“The presence of these couples is opening up a new conversation that hasn’t been there,” said Jenifer Bratter, professor of sociology at Rice University. “In a space where there is almost no racial diversity, where it’s dominated by one group, it’s hard to really gauge what people think about race.

“It’s that act of forming a family that I think is really still a powerful moment for people to deal with their own racial attitudes.” …

… “We know that one of the most charged couplings is white women and black men, for many reasons,” said Marcia Alesan Dawkins, a professor at the University of Southern California. “There’s a history of lynching black men for their perceived threats against white women. … A lot of people said in the comments, ‘It’s only white women who can have white babies, so if they start having babies or keep having babies with African-Americans and Asian-Americans, etc., etc., what’s going to happen as white people become not the majority race in the United States?'”

In a different context, Dawkins said, the race of the little girl in the commercial would not have attracted attention…

Read the entire story here. Listen to the story here.

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love, desire, and impossible measures

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-09 01:05Z by Steven

love, desire, and impossible measures

The State

Tiana Reid
Columbia University

Children rule. No, certain children rule the ways in which we measure fantasies of progress. I read Meagan Hatcher-Mays’ Jezebel piece, “I’m Biracial, and That Ad Is a Big Fucking Deal. Trust Me.,” before I saw the Cheerios commercial itself. The commercial, like most ads, is simple and taps into the unsupervised kiddie trope: it presents a chubby-cheeked maybe-blonde making a mess. Distressingly enough, my first reaction was to claim a resolutely anti stance to not watch the video but respond to the Jezebel post and say, “I’m Biracial, and That Ad Is the Worst Thing Ever. Trust Me.” Quickly, however, I felt it and thought, “Oh, fuck no. I’m black.” And it’s not the ad, but the liberal reactions to it, the way it becomes a siphon for deliciously delirious national imaginaries of cosmopolitan ideas of race that cracks my core. (For instance: how could they say those things about that cute little girl?!) But here I am, writing…

…It’s hard enough, I would think, to hate on a beautiful little “mixie” and wonder what or how her presence, no, the way in which she is presented, eclipses other lives. Hatcher-Mays, whose hyphenated name perhaps tells us what we need to know of her wholeness, went as far to say that the commercial “validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people.” (Her emphasis.) The way we think about “mixed-race,” however, is grounded in a neoliberal narrative that is narrowly individualized (again, “Mixie Me”). What does it mean for children of color to bring into “existence” this “biracial” child who is not one or the other or even both but maybe, here, a symbol of what’s to come? Who has access to this claim? What does it even mean to grope for a way to ask such questions? When visibility becomes the proxy for “the state of things”—when it becomes a measure of who we are and that we exist, what we lose is vitality….

…If the goal is to normalize mixed-race families, as Hatcher-Mays applauds Cheerios for, then we should all be scared for our lives. Normalization is a bit like reform—as simultaneously boring and dangerous—and, as American sociologist and race theorist Howard Winant wrote in a nod to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, “reformism is better understood as incorporation and absorption of conflict than as conflict resolution.” Multiculturalism, multiracialism, pluralism, diversity, and the endless etc. of 21st century neologisms fit into this schema of subsumption rather than disruption. What isn’t embraced in the script is that Blackness isn’t that normal at all

Read the entire article here.

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According to Our Hearts: Lessons Lost and Learned from the Cheerios Commercial Controversy

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, United States on 2013-06-06 20:06Z by Steven

According to Our Hearts: Lessons Lost and Learned from the Cheerios Commercial Controversy

Steven F. Riley

Keeping our cholesterol and our expectations low

By now, most readers of and other race-related blogs and social media sites are well aware of the “Just Checking” commercial for the cereal brand Cheerios, a May 28 post on YouTube featuring an interracial family.

I would guess that the same readers are aware that General Mills, Inc., the maker of Cheerios, removed the comments section for the video after fielding a number of remarks that Camille Gibson, VP of  Marketing, stated were “not family friendly.”

Most other media outlets however, have not been so benign. The Deseret News reported “Biracial Cheerios commercial sparks racist comments;” The Huffington Post reported, “Cheerios Commercial Featuring Mixed Race Family Gets Racist Backlash;” MSNBC reported, “Interracial family in Cheerios ad sparks internet backlash,” to name just a few. Specialty news outlets chimed in also with AdWeeks’s headline, “It’s 2013, and People Are Still Getting Worked Up About Interracial Couples in Ads” and Business Insiders’This Is The Mixed-Race Cheerios Ad All The Idiots Are Complaining About.”

Despite the extensive coverage about the General Mills’ actions in response to the comments, there has been little if anything said about the actual comments posted on their YouTube site. Such is the sorry state of journalism today that comments about the news—rather than the actual events themselves—become the news.

I speculate with confidence that the Cheerios commercial received negative and racist comments (and positive and anti-racist comments too). A cursory scan through the videos on YouTube reveals that even apparently non-controversial videos can elicit the most hateful comments imaginable. Because General Mills is in the business of selling food products—and not in debating racial dynamics of family formation—it is understandable that they would remove the comments from the site.

Yet, General Mills’ action to remove the comments and the inaction of the media to investigate and shed light on those comments denies us the opportunity to confront and refute the ignorance and bigotry continuing to fester within our still pre-post-racial society.  Also, the overreaction to the yet unexposed remarks has the unintended consequence of empowering the individuals who posted them. Informed rebuttals to these comments could 1) enlighten the ignorant and racist commenters, 2) encourage others from embracing racist ignorance, and 3) provide solace and support to those waging combat against racist ignorance.  This concealment of ignorance merely encourages more ignorance as exemplified by (self-described unemployed) Meagan Hatcher-Mays’ essay in Jezebel titled, “I’m Biracial, and That Cheerios Ad Is a Big F–ing Deal. Trust Me,” where she, without quoting a single comment on the YouTube page, states, “What’s up with you racist dicks, anyway? Don’t you have jobs?” One commenter on a Facebook group posting even suggested that we could guess who reacted negatively to the ad.

Confronting the racism in the comments might just also provide us with an answer to that rhetorical question. Such an exercise would likely provide us an uncomfortable reminder that resistance and hostility to interracial relationships need not necessarily come from trolls from under the cloak of internet anonymity, but also from a family member we have known all of our lives.

I have not seen any of the racist comments in reference to the Cheerios ad, so I cannot comment on them. Yet I will remind readers that family formation across racialized borders have been occurring centuries before YouTube (2005), the birth of Barack Obama (1961—in Hawaii of course), court decisions to remove existing anti-miscegenation laws (1967), and acts of congress to reform immigration laws (1965). In fact, such family formations are as old as the Americas.  Relations between European men and indigenous women were essential to the establishment of European settlements in the pre-Columbian period. And as Audrey Smedley states in her 2007 presentation, “The History of the Idea of Race… And Why it Matters,”

No stigma was associated with [in the 1600s] what we today call intermarriages. Black men servants often married white women servants. Records from one county reveal that one fourth of the children born to European servant girls were mulatto (Breen and Ennis 1980). Historian Anthony Parent (2003) notes that five out of ten black men on the Eastern Shore were married to white women. One servant girl declared to her master that she would rather marry a Negro slave on a neighboring plantation than him with all of his property, and she did (P. Morgan 1998). Given the demographics, servant girls had their choice of men. One white widow of a black farmer had no problem with remarrying, this time to a white man. She later sued this second husband, accusing him of squandering the property she had accumulated with her first husband (E. Morgan 1975, 334). In another case, a black woman servant sued successfully for her freedom and then married the white lawyer who represented her in court (P. Morgan, 1998).

Though we are unable to learn much from the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial, I suggest we can learn much from the commercial itself.

As a person in an interracial marriage (25 years), I’m glad see yet another commercial featuring an interracial family. And the “Just Checking” commercial—in and by itself—is a amusing, pleasing, and does an excellent job of extoling the supposed health benefits of Cheerios. However, what troubles me is twofold. Firstly, the depiction of these families is far too rare. It is as if advertisers believe that these families do not exist, or worse, they believe they should not exist. This rendered invisibility contributes to the fear and animus that can occur when the rare depiction occurs.

Because interracial depictions are so rare, those of us who are supportive of such relationships far too frequently give our uncritical enthusiasm their visualizations. Yet, the depictions of these relationships are as important as their occurrence.  Images of interracial couples and families that are absent of the full range of intimacy of other relationships have the potential to foster harmful and demeaning attitudes to those couples and their families.

In Erica Chito Childs’s excellent monograph, Fade to Black and White: Interracial Images in Popular Culture, she describes how such depictions can be used to simultaneously both demean and deviantize interracial relationships and normalize monoracial (particularly white) relationships when she states,

Throughout the various media realms—television, film, news media, and the less clearly defined intersecting worlds of music, sports, and youth culture—representations of interracial sex and relationships follow certain patterns, and what emerges is a delicate dance between interracial sex sells and interracial sex alienates.  The small number of representations as well as the particular types of depictions of interracial relationships, when they are shown, reveals the lingering opposition to interracial sexuality and marriage as well as the persistent racialized images of racial Others and the protection of whiteness. Interracial representations are symbolic struggles over meaning, not only in how interracial relationships are portrayed but also in how they are received, understood, and responded to in the larger society.  In particular, interracial images are used to perpetuate negative stereotypes yet are simultaneously marketed as an example of how color-blind we have become and of the declining significance of race. Yet one may ask, Why are interracial relationships shown at all if they are still widely opposed by whites and other racial groups? The answer is twofold, as we have seen throughout the book, that showing interracial relationships is a necessary piece of the current rhetoric that asserts race no longer matters and the representations are only shown in ways that either deviantize these relationships, privilege whiteness, or support the contention that America is color-blind.

Thus my second concern is that when interracial couples are depicted, there is a often a distinct lack of intimacy between the couple/family. (Contrast this to the highly visible illicit extra-marital interracial intimacy on a newly popular television show, provocatively named Scandal.) As is often mentioned in media studies, what is not seen is often as important if not more important than what is seen. In many instances, if you blink or are not paying close attention, it is difficult to know that the individuals are a couple in the first place. For example, I have yet to see an interracial couple depicted holding hands, kissing or appearing in a bed mattress commercial (although I have been informed that Ikea had such a commercial.) While the “Just Checking” ad uses the young girl’s words “mom” and “dad” to create the familiar and marital connections between characters, her parents are situated in separate rooms. In the context of a portrayal of families within a commercial ad, this physical separation is hardly an issue. Yet, General Mills continues with the apparent proscription of interracial intimacy within their ad.

With the Pew Research Center reporting that 15% of all new marriages in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, it is no longer acceptable for advertisers to suppress the portrayal of interracial families or obfuscate the intimacy within their infrequent portrayals. I do not believe that is unreasonable to suggest that viewers should see at least one interracial couple or family depicted within commercial ads during the daily television prime-time period. The time is now that we as viewers—and more importantly—as consumers, demand the public depiction of images of interracial couples exchanging wedding vows, in hospital delivery rooms expecting the birth of their child, buying homes, laying in bed, and sharing meals (including breakfast) at the same table.

A few years back, Giant Foods (a supermarket chain in the Washington, D.C. area) aired a television ad featuring a (real-life) mixed-race family with similar issues that I described. Since the theme of the commercial was family meals, this necessitated having the entire family at the table. Despite this fact, tightly cropped camera angles where used to frame each family member separately, only revealing their relationship to each other via the passing of a salad bowl.

Despite my mixed feelings, I did contact Giant Foods to compliment them for portraying the family, if not only to encourage them to do more commercials featuring interracial families, but to counter any negative responses they may have received.  In the case of General Mills and the Cheerios ad, I would suggest supporters do the same, but I would also they suggest that advertisers add more intimate family interactions.

And to General Mills, I would suggest that the next cereal commercial produced could depict the same family sitting together at the breakfast table eating a bowl of Cheerios. It will be good for their hearts, and ours too.

©2013, Steven F. Riley

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