You may have heard about the controversy surrounding the latest Cheerios ad, which has the audacity to feature an interracial family and – gasp – not make a big deal about it. Racist onlookers, however, thought this warranted comment. So much so that they were forced to close the comments on the video…but not before people made comments like “this makes me sick.” If you haven’t seen this Cheerios commercial, have a look:
Now, as someone with an interracial family, I’ll tell you that this actually is a really big deal in two ways. One, interracial families just don’t appear in the media, and it was lovely to not only see a family like mine, but to see them portrayed as perfectly normal. And two, the negative reaction is also a big deal. Of course, I try to shield my daughters from racism in our day-to-day lives, and, for the most part, we are successful. But now I have to wonder what is going to happen as a result of this ad and the associated fallout.
We live in a mostly white, suburban neighborhood, and, most of the time, the closest thing we get to racism is people being overly friendly when we are out as a family. Now, I fear, rather than negative comments, we will get that weird opposing effect – people feeling the need to absolve themselves of racial guilt by letting us know that they think it is totally okay that we have a mixed race family. To which, if I have my wits about me, I will respond, “Great! Your all-white family is okay with me, too!”
It’s a really strange thing when strangers want to let you know that they approve of your family, because it implies that they believe they have some stake in it. They don’t! Or, if they do, they need to start showing up at mealtimes and taking on their share of the chores! It also implies that there is something less-than-normal about my family. And, well, sure, there are tons of things that aren’t normal about my family. We have only one car. My daughters are both very tall for their ages, even though my husband and I are both shorter than average for our age and gender.
And, yes, from a statistical standpoint, the bit where my husband is black and I am white makes us unusual. But, and here’s the important bit, it doesn’t change anything about our day-to-day activities. We wake up. We eat breakfast, and yes, sometimes it is cereal. We tell the 3-year-old, once again, that no, she can’t have ice cream for breakfast. We change the baby’s diapers. We negotiate playdates. We deal with cranky, overtired little folks, we try to make sure everyone is getting enough vegetables. We kiss ouches and apply unnecessary band-aids.
Normal family stuff, you know? And it bothers me that I’m going to have to explain to my daughters that some people will feel compelled to comment on our family – our totally normal to us family – because daddy is brown and mommy is white and Bubba and Izzy are various shades of caramel.
Have you encountered racism with your family? What did you do, and how did you explain it to your children?