Interracial Couple in Cheerios Ad Spurs Racist Rants

Does the Internet provide a cloak of anonymity for racists and bigots?

By Chris Hoenig


A television ad for the iconic breakfast brand Cheerios featuring an interracial couple and their biracial daughter sparked an ugly rash of racist and insensitive comments.

The video touting Cheerios' heart-healthy qualities and the brand's place at the wholesome American breakfast table, which aired and was posted online last week, quickly drew more than 2 million hits on YouTube. But the site was forced to disable viewer comments after responses included references to Nazis and racial genocide. "We are a family brand and not all of the comments were family-friendly," Camille Gibson, Vice President of Marketing for cereal maker General Mills, told USA Today. The racist comments on the ad were also spread virally across the web, including on the social website Reddit.

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman told DiversityInc exclusively that the backlash is disappointing, but not surprising. "Unfortunately, with all of its positive benefits to society, the Internet also has a dark side, which rears its ugly head when anonymous users use it to spread overtly racist messages," Foxman, co-author of Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet, wrote in an email. "While disabling comments should only be a measure of last resort when a site is overwhelmed by hateful or racist messages, in this case, YouTube was right to take action so as to prevent some users from distorting the positive message of this ad."

General Mills, No. 26 in the 2013 DiversityInc Top 50, did find support from consumers on its Facebook page. "My husband and I are an interracial couple. He is African-American and I am white. I was so impressed with the way Cheerios stood up to those racist comments and stated that it would absolutely not withdraw its new commercial," Tanya Roberson wrote. "I will definitely remember this and intend to be a LOYAL Cheerios customer. Thank you, Cheerios, for doing the right thing!"

The ad has gained more than 6,000 likes and 1,500 shares on Facebook, but that is just a fraction of the more than 1 million likes the Cheerios page has. In response, the company released additional comments to the media stating that tumult over the ad will not affect future casting or branding opportunities featuring multicultural families. "There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios just wants to celebrate them all," said Meredith Tutterow, Associate Marketing Director for Cheerios and Multigrain Cheerios.

This is just the latest ad to stir controversy. Last month, jcpenney drew headlines after people noticed that the billboard image of a tea kettle it sold resembled Adolf Hitler.

Officials at jcpenney, No. 50 in the DiversityInc Top 50, said the resemblance was unintentional, tweeting, "If we had designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun." The $40 kettle was later pulled from the jcpenney website and the billboard was taken down. The additional online attention, though, did manage to help the brand completely sell out of its inventory in just a weekend.

Jury Awards $28M to Haitian-American Nurse Who Stood Up for Coworker

Brigham and Women's Hospital retaliated against a nurse for defending a coworker amid alleged verbal abuse.

Gessy Toussaint — who shares the name of the best-known leader of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture — also believes in fighting against the odds and winning.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury ruled on Wednesday that Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass., retaliated against Toussaint, a Haitian-American nurse who stood up for a colleague, and has awarded her $28 million. Deliberation took more than three days.

Read More Show Less

After a Typhoon of Publicity, Harvey Weinstein Charged with Rape

Allowed to turn himself in with pre-arranged bail already taken care of.

REUTERS

There was one more red carpet for Harvey to walk down. At 7:30 this morning, the alleged rapist walked into a Lower Manhattan police station surrounded by cameras flashing and reporters shouting his name.

Read More Show Less

Racist Train Rider Charged with Hate Crime for Rant at Black Woman: Video

"I'll smack the [expletive] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive]," Edward Ruggiero said to Soraya Orelien.

FACEBOOK

Being a racist is ignorant and costly.

The Queens, N.Y., district attorney on Wednesday charged Edward Ruggiero, who was caught on video hurling racist insults at a Black woman on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), with a hate crime.

Read More Show Less

Why They Take a Knee — Parking Violation Results in Savage, Racist Cop Behavior: Video

"My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody," said NBA player Sterling Brown.

Milwaukee's school-to-prison pipeline for Black students is notoriously awful. In Milwaukee County, more than half of Black men in their thirties have served time in prison. The racism and racial profiling that perpetually exists in the city is again in the national spotlight as police used excessive force on a Black NBA player.

Read More Show Less

Marvin Ellison, one of three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, shared his career journey during DiversityInc's Top 50 Companies for Diversity event May 1. On Tuesday, it was announced that Ellison will leave his position as CEO of JCPenney to take the helm of Lowe's.


Ellison joined JCPenney at a time when they were struggling with $5 billion in debt, and an almost $1.5 billion operating loss. Their customers had been alienated. He stated at the Top 50 Event that as soon as he learned that women were his major customers, he made leadership in the company reflect that. Also pulling from his experience at Home Depot for 12 years, he reduced the debt and modernized its e-commerce, as well as expanded their offerings in the home market.

With his sights now set on Lowe's, the home improvement competitor of his former employer, he has similar issues to contend with.

Lowe's has not participated in the Diversity Top 50 in the past, but their new history starts today.

Ellison, who had chaired the executive diversity council at JCPenney, served as an executive sponsor and made the majority of his direct reports women, said he owes his success to the values taught by his sharecropper father and mother, who was a factory worker: faith and moral strength, hard work and education, as well as gratitude for those who came before him and sacrificed. "Every day I am grateful," said Ellison.

REUTERS

Twenty-one white people (including seven male board members and CEO Steve Simon) of a total of 22 people in the World Tennis Association's (WTA) management made the call to boot Serena Williams from seeding for the French Open for having a baby.

Read More Show Less

JCPenney Builds Plus-Size Fashion Cred

JCPenney is uniquely positioned to serve the plus-size market because our plus-size private brands are designed and curated by plus-size women.

Originally Published by JCPenney.

Every body deserves great style and there are 100 million plus-size women who experience difficulty finding everything they need in terms of great fashion, quality and value. At JCPenney, we know if we can offer her clothes that are designed to fit her unique body type, we'll have a customer for life.

We recently sat down with two of our senior designers who create some of our most popular plus-size private brands to talk about their design process, inspiration and why they are passionate about creating fashion for full-figured women.

JCPenney is uniquely positioned to serve the plus-size market because our plus-size private brands are designed and curated by plus-size women. Not only does our design team understand the technical and fit aspects of creating plus-size clothing, they understand what a full-figured woman wants to wear on a personal level because they are wearing their own designs.

Each private brand, including Boutique+, Worthington Plus, Liz Claiborne Plus and Bold Elements Plus, is designed specifically to complement a curvier shape, rather than just extending the styles found in the women's department. Our dedicated team of design, trend and product experts take into account the diverse shapes of plus-size women and ensure the colors, prints and fabrications accentuate and enhance curvy silhouettes.