Cherrios commercial a positive sign of growth in America accepting its ethnic diversityJune 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American Racism, blacks, commercials, desegregation, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, Media and Race, minority, mixed-marriage, Prejudice, Public housing, segregation, skin color, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, black, Cheerios, commercials, Confronting Myths, ethnic diversity, ethnicity, European Americans, mixed marriages, Prejudice, social changes, society, Supreme Court, white
All the negative comments concerning the ethnic Americans in the Cheerios commercial are signs of growing pains in American society. The pains come from both African Americans and European Americans having to deal with the ignorance, segregation, and bigotry that have been part of the social atmosphere since slavery. The commercial is doing double duty by forcing society to see what is happening in the real world while challenging those ignorant, isolated, and bigoted people to reevaluate their perspectives.
Many Americans today still believe in the concept of multiple biological races with the so-called white race being special and different from all the so-called other races. That being the case, any examples of race mixing involving a European American (white) with any other ethnic American diminishes the strength of the white race. Therefore, all races mixing involving so-called whites are frowned upon. Because of the social value placed on the European American by European Americans, for one to be intimately involved with an ethnic American is a sign of low self-esteem and self-worth. Although most Americans know that to hold and express those beliefs is an indication of ignorance relative to America’s social environment today and a far cry from reality. For some people, the so-called white identity is the only thing of value they have, so to have that threatened is of major concern. For some people, loosing their white identity would be devastating because they have no idea of who they are without that identity. They choose not to accept the truth and progress of America’s diverse society, and like children not wanting to hear something they already know, stick their fingers in their ears thinking that if they do not hear what is being said, it will not exist. Such is ignorance.
Segregation and separation of ethnic Americans present opportunities to create stereotypes that living in an integrated or even desegregated society could easily debunk. After World War II ended and the troops came home, the government found that housing was a problem, so it created help for the veterans through the GI Bill and FHA. While these programs were great for the country, they provided little help for the African Americans. The new housing additions that were created were segregated. The housing additions led to the creation of segregated communities that included churches, school, and public facilities. For example, in Oklahoma City before 1954, African Americans could visit the public zoo only on Thursdays; state parks were off limits for African Americans also. So, without direct interaction with other ethnic Americans, European Americans were free to create any stereotype they desired.
To be sure, African Americans living in a segregated society and communities also held stereotype of European Americans. The belief that European Americans were superior to other ethnic groups was part of the educational package taught to all students while the negative stereotypes were constantly underscored in the newspapers, movies, radio and television. The idea of the African American knowing “his place” had to do with the African American knowing that the European American had more social value than he and that he must respect that superiority regardless of the social and economic status of the European American and that of the African American. For some Americans that concept of European American superiority still exists and should remain forever. So, when a commercial presents a mixed ethnic American couple and their child, some people who live segregated lives, fear the change because of what they believe they will lose as a group.
One of the primary reactions to the Cheerios commercial can be identified as ethnic bigotry. A large segment of the European American population born and raised in America entered this world that was filled with ethnic bias against African Americans. All the social institutions promoted the concept of American being a European American country that permitted other ethnic Americans to live here. But make no mistake about it; they believe that American belonged to only them. The concept of democracy, equality, fairness, freedom for all is fine as far as lip service goes, but when it comes to actual change in the direction of diversity, the game changes. When they see or witness things that go contrary to their beliefs, they become upset and angry.
What the commercial has done is bring a touch of reality and changes in society to the forefront. The fact that American’s diverse population is growing and gaining more power is reflected in the commercial. Another thing that was not so obvious but well supported was the fact that the old European American standard of beauty is under attack. Most reasonable viewers would consider all the actors to be attractive, handsome, or good-looking. In essence, if the European American female finds the African American male handsome, then the concept of European American standard of beauty is being ignored. That fact alone is enough for bigots to feel threatened and fearful. At one point in American society, the color of one’s skin determined if beauty could even be considered let alone recognized and appreciated. Now, along comes this commercial that throws a monkey wrench into the entire concept of so-called race and separation.
Whether it was intentional or not, the Cheerios commercial brought to public scrutiny a major problem many Americans must face—a changing society and world. The problem is not the fact that people from different ethnic groups form relationships, because diversity has always been a part of the American experience. The problem is that the diverse relationships had always been kept in check through segregation and out of the public eye. When an example of a diverse ethnic couple came to public view, it was always viewed as extraordinary, unusual. For years legal segregation and biases created boundaries that made miscegenation unacceptable to society. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that public facilities must be opened to all Americans, other laws soon followed that made it possible for different ethnic groups to interact with one another in public. That interaction today is a common occurrence and generally accepted as normal behavior.
So, for those folks who found the Cheerios commercial negative and uncomfortable, they need to realize that their idea of America needs to catch up with reality. Society changes whether we want it to or not. If we choose not to accept the reality of change, we will be left angry and frustrated wondering what is the world coming to. Recognizing the changes does not mean our readily accepting them, but it does mean that they exist and have been validated by at least a significant segment of society. So, here’s to Cheerios– Eat up! They’re good for your heart!
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