The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 27, 2013

Aisha Sultan: Tempest in a cereal bowl

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Cheerios commercial that sent shock waves through the media was so controversial that I had to watch it twice to figure out what I was missing.   

An adorable little girl is asking her mother about the cereal's heart-healthy benefits. A sleeping dad has a pile of Cheerios on his chest, ostensibly placed there by a daughter who misunderstood the product's cholesterol-clearing mechanism.   

Oh, the father in the spot is black, the mother is white, and the daughter looks like a blend of the two. Is it surprising that some took exception to this portrayal and posted hateful rhetoric about it on YouTube?   

Part of the Internet's function, in fact, might be as an anonymous release valve for society's disgruntled, dislocated and disturbed. For those who perceive themselves as powerless against the changing tides of culture, economy and demographics, the misspelled, caps-locked ugliness spouted online is their power.   

In a most reasonable manner, General Mills asked to disable comments on the YouTube video featuring the spot. This became national news.   

The reaction to the reaction was over-the-top. News reports said the spot and the reaction to it sparked a heated conversation about race and forced us to confront attitudes about interracial families.   

This plays directly into the aim of the trolls. They want us to think there is something abnormal about a completely normal situation. They want to plant seeds of doubt -- to make us think that we might actually live in a country in which a sizable proportion of the population takes issue with a mixed-race family about as controversial as whole-grain oats.   

They want us to believe we live in an America completely different from the one that actually exists.   

In fact, mixed-race marriages in America have grown by 28 percent over a decade, according to the 2010 census, from 7 to 10 percent.   

Nearly two-thirds of Americans said it "would be fine" with them if a member of their own family were to marry someone outside their own racial or ethnic group, according to a 2012 Pew Research study.   

We've gone from a country which, in 1986, had just a third of its citizens viewing interracial marriage as acceptable, to one in which more than a third say that a close relative is married to someone of a different race, according to Pew researchers.   

The purported controversy over an ad featuring such a family is much ado about nothing.   

There will always be those who prefer to date or marry within their race or ethnicity. Unfortunately, there will also always be knuckle-draggers among us, who shout horribly racist comments online. Why amplify their voices?   

"Do we really want to hear the hate pour forth from all the whackos on the planet who have access to YouTube, each of them posting 40 kabillion times under different aliases to make their numbers seem larger? No. We get it. You're racist. Let it be your secret," says Los Angeles-based writer Cynthia Liu, who blogs about race, culture, gender and parenting.   

"This is a tempest in a cereal bowl, right?" Liu said. In fact, she posits that Cheerios' move could even be an "upside-down, inside-out" way to dog-whistle to open-minded parents who otherwise might not buy the cereal. After all, when General Mills comes out taking a stand against the bigots and standing by their commercial, it's great free publicity for their brand.   

The most reasonable explanation for all the attention this has generated has come from the 6-year-old star of the commercial, Grace Colbert, whose mother told MSNBC that her daughter thought all the fuss was over her great smile.   

Wisdom from the mouths of babes.

Aisha Sultan is a St. Louis-based journalist who studies parenting in the digital age while trying to keep up with her tech-savvy children. Find her on Twitter: @AishaS.


Text Only
  • r070714palacedrinks2.jpg Spirits school: Drink-making lessons taught at downtown bar

    Some patrons have dubbed it "Drinks with Daniel," but the official name is "Cocktails 101," which has been attracting "students" for the last several weeks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071114_steve cindy head.jpg New exhibit combines works of married couple

    Steve and Cindy Head create different types of art, which means they can be each other's best mentor. Steve makes mixed media works assembled from photographs, headlines and more; Cindy paints vivid patterns and fanciful scenes with bold color palettes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071014_sugar rush1.jpg Sweet summer: Candy factory opens floor for tours, tasting

    When family from Kansas City came to visit Christy Albertson in her family's Webb City home, she wanted to find something entertaining for five kids.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_108172906 Benji Tunnell: 'Transformers' reaches new level of terrible filmmaking

    Then there's "Transformers: Age of Extinction," a film so bereft of originality, spontaneity and life that one would assume its creator must be a talentless hack. That's when you remember that it was directed by Michael Bay.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marta-mug.jpg Marta Churchwell: Crystal Bridges' coup makes art world cry foul

    I find Eastern art snobs insufferable. I have little patience for their pretentious eyebrow-raising over anything unworthy of their refined tastes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Power pop plays perfectly for Fourth of July

    One of the best bits from the long-running -- and sadly now defunct -- "Best Show on WFMU" with Tom Scharpling was the character Power Pop Pop Pop. The independent call-in and comedy radio show explored this menacing, Godfather-like figure of the power pop community via one of his minions, played by the brilliant indie rock drummer and comedian Jon Wurster.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: Found-footage tornado movie may be terrifying

    Funny how all it takes is one little thing to bring back the full onslaught of tornado-related dread, desolation and depression. This time, it was a movie trailer.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • aisha-sultan-mug.jpg Aisha Sultan: Study shows popular kids peak too early

    It was, of course, a popular mean girl who made my life miserable in middle school.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

Speaking of Gardens


Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is supporting an August ballot measure that would insert the right to farm into the state constitution. The governor is leaning toward opposing it. Do you support the Freedom to Farm amendment?

     View Results

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter