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Tim Blagg

Blagg: America’s families

Frankly, I had to wait awhile before I could write this column ... I had to cool down.

The subject got me so hot under the collar that it seemed better to let it simmer for a week or two before addressing it.

I’m talking about the fuss caused by a recent ad for Cheerios. In the ad, a mom is sitting at her kitchen table when her young child comes up with a big box of Cheerios.

“Mom,” says the girl. “Dad told me Cheerios is good for your heart. Is that true?”

Cut to dad waking from a nap on the living room couch with a pile of Cheerios on his chest (where his heart is) crunchily cascading to the floor.

The ad is part of the company’s “Heart Healthy” and normally wouldn’t occasion much comment.

Except in this version, the mom is white, the dad is black and the kid is biracial.

That was apparently enough to fire up all those closet racists out there, who immediately loaded up the company’s YouTube site to the point that Cheerios had to shut the comments section down.

Really? In 2013? In a country in which one in seven marriages are interracial?

To its credit, Cheerios parent company, General Mills, has stuck by its guns and kept the ad on the air, despite the barrage of bigoted hate.

And, in what can only be a sign of the times, the young actress shown in the ad — 6-year-old Grace Colbert — has now become a sought-after commodity on talk shows.

What’s more, hundreds of interracial families have submitted pictures of themselves for a special crowd-sourced photo album blog inspired by the uproar. “We Are The 15 Percent.” (http://wearethe15percent.com/) The project was created this month by one of those couples — Alyson West and Michael David Murphy, who live in Atlanta with their 1-year-old-daughter Alexandra.

Good for them!

I have to confess I have a special interest in this subject. I have two grandchildren who are biracial — Neil and Collin — and the idea that they are somehow not good enough to appear in a commercial ... or to do anything else in this country, for that matter — infuriates me.

The furor could very well have driven the ads off the air, but General Mills held steady. “We felt like we were reflecting an American family,” a spokesman explained.

That may be a new trend. One expert said, “Advertisers for many years always took the safe route, which was to try to ruffle no feathers and in doing so became less and less authentic and real. (But) to succeed today, big brands like Cheerios need to be in touch with what’s authentic and true about American families.”

Authentic, true and long overdue.

The actor who portrays the sleeping dad in the spot, Charles Malik Whitfield, said, “Let’s not pretend racism doesn’t exist. Let’s not pretend that we’ve come so far. Let’s be conscious of and appreciate the noise, and the negativity, because there’s so much work to be done.”

Right on.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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