We’ve seen interracial couples on television for decades but corporate companies have largely stayed away from including them in advertising.
The sitcom “I Love Lucy,” which premiered in 1951, was the first television program to feature an interracial couple starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. In 1975, “The Jeffersons” also featured one of the first black and white couples on TV with Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), neighbors of George and Louise Jefferson. More recently shows like “Boy Meets World,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” have featured interracial couples in leading roles.
Earlier this week Cheerios released a commercial featuring an interracial couple and their daughter and you’d think it would be no big deal since we’ve seen interracial couples on TV for decades. Not so.
The ad, posted to YouTube on Tuesday, received such a negative response that Cheerios had to close the comments section on the video sharing site. The ad also made it to Reddit where the discussion thread is still thriving with bigoted comments.
Cord Jefferson at Gawker highlited the following racist comment on Reddit: “Shoving multi-culturism down our throats when we know it fails.. awesome.”
It’s been 46-years since the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that prohibiting marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored” was unconstitutional. The case, Loving vs. Virginia, led to a decision that ruled all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States were unconstitutional.
Despite the court ruling and more than half a century of interracial couples on TV, the bigotry (at least online) is still alive and thriving.
Tim Nudd at Ad Age points out that the controversy may stem from people just not being used to seeing interracial couples in ads that are lobbying for their dollars.
“The problem is that TV ads have always lagged TV programming in this regard, as so many brands are clearly scared of being perceived as making a political statement with the casting of their commercials,” Nudd write at AdAge. ”Thus, the Cheerios ad, despite its characters being representative of tens of thousands of actual couples in America, sticks out like a sore thumb.”
The good news is that there are some people complaining the ad doesn’t go far enough.
“Every commercial with an interracial family show a black man and white woman. You never see Asians or Native Americans or Mexicans or even a white man with a black woman,” wrote one user on Reddit. “I’m not satisfied with the family, they need to be more interracial.”