By now you know some racist dicks have whipped themselves up in a frenzy of racist dickery over the portrayal of an interracial family in a Cheerios ad. You see, Cheerios has committed the heinous crime of “acknowledging that interracial families exist,” and also that “sometimes interracial families need to eat breakfast.” This was too much for the racist dicks—Cheerios was forced to disable comments on YouTube where the video was posted. (What’s up with you racist dicks, anyway? Don’t you have jobs?)
I am biracial. My mom is black and my dad is white. My family often had the audacity to eat breakfast even though cereal was not being specifically marketed to us. When I was growing up, there were no families on television that resembled mine. My family was something of an anomaly in the overwhelmingly white neighborhood of Seattle where I lived. When I was with my mom, people would look at me and ask, “What is she?” When I was with my dad, people would ask, “Is she Italian?” Because this is definitely the kind of information that strangers are entitled to.
But life was even more confusing for my brother. He was born with blond, curly hair and bright blue eyes. He looked nothing like my mom. When they were alone together, well, that’s when shit got real. The white mothers in my neighborhood not only assumed my mom was my brother’s nanny, but they inquired after her services. Single brows were raised when my mom assured these awful women that she was, in fact, the biological mother of my brother. (This was before Botox. Eyebrows could move freely then.) When my maternal grandmother came to pick us up from daycare, despite being on the authorized pick-up list, they made sure to call my dad to make sure this black lady was legit. (By the way, there are worse things than being kidnapped by a black lady in a luxury Cadillac who takes you to her country club for lunch and lets you drive the golf cart.)
Yeah, okay, this was in 1991 or whatever and Halle Berry hadn’t won an Oscar yet so maybe racial dynamics were more confusing then. But just last week (IN TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN), a white father in Virginia was suspected by a Walmart security guard of kidnapping after he made the mistake of being seen in public with his own biracial children. A customer reported the father to the security guard after seeing him in the parking lot with his children and deeming the scene “strange.” Local police were dispatched to the family’s home to investigate. The children were made to positively identify their own parents, in their own home. As dumb as this sounds, this Cheerios commercial at least provides idiots in the parking lot at Walmart a foundation of knowledge about interracial families. I don’t necessarily want strangers to look at me with my parents and think “CHEERIOS FAMILY,” but if the alternative is bailing my dad out jail, then I guess I’ll take it.
This commercial is a huge step for interracial families like mine who want to be seen in public together and maybe eat some heart-healthy snacks. But it also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people. Often we’re treated like exotic flowers, who should feel complimented when people say stuff to us like, “All biracial women are so beautiful” or “I would kill for your skin.” One of the hardest things about growing up the way I did is feeling like you need to choose one racial identity over another just to fit in. The fact that strangers constantly ask you to identify yourself (forcing you to put yourself in a category) makes you feel conspicuous and gazed upon. You catch strangers looking at you. You know what they want to ask you. You know that they won’t leave you alone until you give them a rundown of your heritage.
So, this is just a stupid commercial about Cheerios but it means a lot to me. It shows interracial families and their children being normal and cute, not something to gawk at or to question. Hopefully this commercial will lead to even more positive representations of not just interracial families, but all kinds of non-traditional families. To Cheerios, I give you one internet high-five, for doing your part to normalize families like mine and people like me. Increased visibility of our differences leads to things like “acceptance” and “disrupting the status quo” and also “not arresting biracial people’s dads for kidnapping.” Bravo. Now excuse me while I go dump a box of cereal on my dad.
Meagan Hatcher-Mays is an unemployed graduate of Washington University Law School in Saint Louis. She does a significant amount of yelling on Twitter.