Was the reason people got so upset about the Cheerios ad not just because it was an interracial family but because it featured a white woman with a black man?
At Talking Points Memo, Nichole Perkins ponders this question, on this, the Holiest of Days for exploring issues concerning life and love (and race, it seems). "The American public seems more willing to accept (or ignore) seeing a black woman with a white man than a black man with a white woman," Perkins writes, arguing that because Americans have long-displayed a "fear of black male sexuality," our culture has evolved to the point where "black women dating white men has been promoted as panacea for all the alleged problems black women face when it comes to dating."
Perkins uses a few examples in advertising (a new Swiffer commercial featuring a white man who is disabled and his black wife) and TV (Scandal) to illustrate her point that white men with black women are more easily accepted by our society – an argument brought up on Gawker's original post about the negative reaction to the Cheerios ad.
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But the one thing Perkins doesn't discuss here is the role children play in the Cheerios commercials and how important they are in considering the "threat" of interracial relationships. While it's likely that old, old stereotypes about what a "danger" a black man is to a white woman definitely were at play in the response to the Cheerios commercial, a big part of why people were so riled up about Gracie was because she was the literal fruit of a paring that they didn't want to acknowledge. Seeing a couple together who personally offends you is one thing; seeing that they've procreated and have made more "like them" is quite another. (Though even considering that it was the child that so offended people doesn't explain why there wasn't an obvious backlash to the new Cheerios commercial that showed Gracie's parents were having a second kid. Maybe those who would normally be upset were sufficiently chastened and have gone into hiding. Or maybe the more of these images of interracial femailies we see, the more we get used to them.)
Additionally, interracial children are confusing. They can't be put in a box. Who are they? What should we call someone who is interracial? (A person.)
Of course, trying to understand the fear such a relationship prompts for some people is highly difficult if you don't feel it yourself – see all the people who love the little girl in the Cheerios commercial so much Cheerios used the response to keep the ad campaign going. Though calculating what pairings of couples get "the most hate" is difficult, it's a valuable exercise in understanding how our societal prejudices work. As Perkins points out, according to the 2009 census, there were significantly more white women with black men than black women with white men, so chalking these racist reactions up to lack of exposure doesn't make sense. Ultimately, the only real conclusion we can come to is that the more we see families of all types like this, the more we have to acknowledge they're the future of America – and the present.
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