The Times West Virginian

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June 23, 2013

Changing face of U.S. should be embraced, not ridiculed

As much as we might want to pretend it no longer exists, racism has once again reared its ugly head in our country.

And this time, it’s over something as trivial as a cereal commercial.

You read that right. Earlier this month Cheerios began airing a commercial that shows a young girl asking her mom about the benefits of the popular oat cereal. After her mother explains the health benefits touted by the cereal, the viewer sees the youngster’s dad waking from a nap on the couch with a pile of Cheerios on his chest (where the heart is).

It’s a lovely sentiment that brings a smile — and a chuckle, as the dad sends the Cheerios tumbling to the floor when he wakes up.

But some people were outraged by the 30-second spot, which company officials say is in line with their Heart Healthy campaign. Why? Because the couple featured is an interracial couple and their daughter is biracial.

We were surprised by the backlash. This is 2013, after all. It’s been 50 years since the civil rights movement took hold of the U.S., since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and issued his passionate plea for an end to racism in this country.

And while we are not so naive to believe that racism has been completely wiped out, we certainly didn’t think something like this would be the cause of such hateful reactions.

Those reactions apparently haven’t fazed the company, and Cheerios is standing by its decision to feature an interracial couple.

“We felt like we were reflecting an American family,” said Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, who added that the majority of the feedback on the ad has been overwhelmingly supportive.

Gibson also said the latest commercial is the first time the ad campaign, which focuses on family moments, has featured an interracial couple, with General Mills Inc. casting the actors to reflect the changing U.S. population.

And why shouldn’t it? There’s no denying that the face of America is changing.

Just this month, new estimates based on the 2012 census were released, revealing that the United States’ racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half the under-5 age group, reflecting sweeping changes by race and class among young people. In addition, projections are that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18.

As a country, we are such a wonderful mix of races and ethnicities. The United States has long been a melting pot of people, and that’s one of the unique qualities of this great nation.

But to know there are still individuals among us who think it’s OK to ridicule or lash out because of that fact is deeply disturbing.

Racism in any form is disgusting. It’s hurtful. It causes emotional pain and suffering, scars that may not be visible to the naked eye, but that linger for years.

Isn’t it time we move beyond our differences and embrace the qualities that make us so unique? And think — something like a cereal commercial can help blaze that trail as long as each of us is willing to see it for what it truly is: a happy American family enjoying a simple breakfast.

Now is the time to look forward and strive to live in a society where the rest of the details don’t matter.

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