Little Grace Colbert, Star of the Cheerios Biracial Family Ad, and Her Parents Speak
Remember, she’s only six. And she thought that all the hubbub was about her smile. No, cher, it’s far more than that, but that’s okay. One thing at a time. Love your little life. We have your back, too.
Oh, yeah. Don’t be surprised if Stephen Colbert (that’s pronounced, cole-BEAR) asks for you and your daughter to come on his show for about ten minutes of fame. I can well imagine what that fertile mind will do with the play on surnames, as well as ask the ultimate question, are you a cousin or something?
Colbert added that he was “excited” about the reactions to the commercial, both good and bad, in that they brought much-needed attention to the growing number of biracial couples in America. According to Census data, interracial marriages are at an all-time high, and over nine million Americans self-identify as multiracial.
Who a person chooses to love “shouldn’t be an issue anymore,” said Colbert.
His daughter’s starring role in a Cheerios ad transformed into a starring role in the national conversation about race two weeks ago, when her commercial drew offensive attacks on YouTube. Within days of the ad’s upload, commenters responded with references to Nazis, “troglodytes,” and even “racial genocide,” simply because the ad featured a child with a white mother and black father. General Mills disabled the commenting feature as a result.
These comments (by her parents) were made as Grace whispered to herself, sighed, squirmed and generally behaved exactly the way you would if you were trying to have a conversation with a man you had never met via satellite. We did learn that Grace has gotten “a bunch” of auditions and got the inside scoop on the reaction from her friends at school: “They said they saw my commercial.”
I think we have to remember Grace, just as we still remember Rodney Allen Rippy of Jack in the Box fame, first black child adored by whites as well as blacks for looking like a five-year-old kid with a Jumbo Jack that he could barely handle (Rodney was so beloved that a Peanuts comic strip had Snoopy waking from a dream in which he had been invited to dine with the little boy). We have to remember Grace as we do Diahann Carroll in Julia; and Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek, and the first few black people to do commercials on television, starting in the late Sixties. Why? Because she is The First to be a real live child of color—of mixed color—on television with a black father and a white mother in an environment where nothing is tragic, lacking or troubled. Even if she folds back into obscurity after her 15 minutes are up, Grace Colbert should be remembered for this moment because it has had a positive impact as well as a controversial one, as evidenced by essays like this one from Meaghan Hatcher-Mays, “I’m Biracial, and That Cheerios Ad is a Big Fucking Deal. Trust Me.” Hatcher-Mays manages to put a few in against the “racist dicks” who got so exercised at the ad on You Tube.
This commercial is a huge step for interracial families like mine who want to be seen in public together and maybe eat some heart-healthy snacks. But it also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people. Often we’re treated like exotic flowers, who should feel complimented when people say stuff to us like, “All biracial women are so beautiful” or “I would kill for your skin.” One of the hardest things about growing up the way I did is feeling like you need to choose one racial identity over another just to fit in. The fact that strangers constantly ask you to identify yourself (forcing you to put yourself in a category) makes you feel conspicuous and gazed upon. You catch strangers looking at you. You know what they want to ask you. You know that they won’t leave you alone until you give them a rundown of your heritage.
So, this is just a stupid commercial about Cheerios but it means a lot to me. It shows interracial families and their children being normal and cute, not something to gawk at or to question. Hopefully this commercial will lead to even more positive representations of not just interracial families, but all kinds of non-traditional families. To Cheerios, I give you one internet high-five, for doing your part to normalize families like mine and people like me. Increased visibility of our differences leads to things like “acceptance” and “disrupting the status quo” and also “not arresting biracial people’s dads for kidnapping.” Bravo. Now excuse me while I go dump a box of cereal on my dad.
Those negative You Tube commenters wouldn’t know what a Nazi is if s/he came and bit them. Racial genocide? Please.
Not when you’re eating something like “heart-healthy” Cheerios, I’d bet.
- After racist backlash, Cheerios ad draws support for interracial couples (pri.org)
- Biracial Cheerios-Ad Star Thought Attention Was for Her Great Smile (theroot.com)
- Cheerios Gets Major Backlash From Using Interracial Couple In Commercial [VIDEO] (blackamericaweb.com)
- Half-and-Half: It’s the Obama age, but my biracial child still makes some people uncomfortable. Babble.com. | Babble (babble.com)
- Racial Identity and the Multiracial Child (babyzone.com)
- Move over, Cheerios. Blockbuster releases biracial ad (wcnc.com)
- The One and Only Cheerios… (jvestal8050.wordpress.com)
- 6.11.13 … Cheerios Ad: I thought we were beyond this … (teaguenc.wordpress.com)
- Grace Colbert’s Family Responds to Cheerios Backlash (bet.com)