Cheerios ad sparks debate on interracial relationships

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TERI AND CARL DASHFIELD

 

The recent controversy over the new Cheerios commercial which features an interracial couple and their biracial daughter’s concern for her father’s heart health has stirred up a lot of emotion, causing the question to be asked, has society become more accepting of interracial relationships now than years before or is it still just as taboo?

“I loved it (the commercial) and thought it was so cute,” said Teri Dashfield, of Ohio. “But the first thing I thought, besides how cute it was, is that Cheerios is going to get some flack. There are going to be some narrow-minded people being ugly. People need to get over it. It is adorable and it represents the changing face of our nation. I’m very happy Cheerios has not backed down.”

In 2008 Dashfield never expected to find the love of her life online and she definitely never expected him to be a Caucasian man originally from England. But a year later, the African-American mother of two adult children and Carl, her Englishman, said “I Do.”

Dashfield, like many, is part of a growing number of individuals who have found love outside of their race.

According to an April 2012 release from the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2010 Census showed interracial or interethnic opposite-sex married couple households grew by 28 percent since 2000. And that a higher percentage of unmarried partners were interracial or interethnic than married couples, with 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples of different race compared to 18 percent of opposite-sex unmarried partners and 21 percent of same-sex unmarried partners.

Dr. Larry Davis, the University of Pittsburgh’s dean of Social Work and the director of the Center on Race and Social Problems, said he hadn’t seen the commercial, and was surprised of the negative feedback, but said interracial relationships with Blacks and Whites has always been a sore topic.

“I see that (interracial relationships) all the time involving other ethnicities. The Black and White union is different than any other interracial union. The Black and White relationship has always been a hot button issue and has a lot of baggage and legacy with it,” he said. “There’s less acceptance than we’d think given it’s 2013. Society is more tolerant and accepting when it is White and Hispanic; White and Asian; Hispanic and Black, etc., but there is something about when it’s Black and White. It goes back to history.”

Davis also pointed out that interracial relationships are everywhere, even in film, however in film it is usually a top paid Black actress, Halle Berry for example, with a White love interest, but never is it a top paid White actress, such as Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Anniston, with a Black actor.

“IMO (In my opinion): interracial couples are very common and for the most part accepted. However, I have to agree with a comment that was made on ‘The View,’ which was that if it had been a black woman with a white man ppl (people) would not have cared as much,” Thecla Craddock, of Pittsburgh, wrote when responding to a Facebook post asking for comments about interracial relationships. “It’s sad but that composition of mixed couple still makes ppl the most uncomfortable. It probably stems from historical events and stereotypes.”

Laura Stillman, co-founder of the Interracial Family Organization, an organization she began because she felt there weren’t a lot of positive images in the media or on television about interracial families, said she feels representation of interracial couples in media has changed.

Stillman, who has been married to her husband, a Black man, for six years and shares seven biracial children with him, said she was not surprised by the reactions that Cheerios received and feels that although things have progressed, she still believes that there is still some stigma to it.

“I’ve had a lot of negative things said (to me), we get a lot of extra attention. But the older we get the less defensive we are,” said Stillman. “Diversity is more than Black and White. The American family today has some type of diversity. It’s a beautiful thing.”    

Stillman also said, that in her opinion, biracial children have more advantages, because they can easily associate with different ethnic groups.

Geral Joseph, an African-American man from Pittsburgh, met the love of his life in 2010. Now, three years later, Joseph is only days away from tying the knot with his fiancée, Becky.

Joseph said, that as a Black man, most of the reactions he receives come from older Black women. “They usually give a disgusted look. I honestly don’t care though. I’ve always been a confident gentleman and I have no preference in women.” He added that although he thinks interracial relationships are more accepted today, it seems as if the “tides” have changed surrounding racism. “Now, it’s the African-Americans that are more against interracial dating than Caucasians. Life isn’t a war against races regardless of the oppression that slaves and Blacks felt in the 50s. I know my fiancée isn’t a slave master and I’m not a slave. It was before my time, so that’s where I keep it. I think its honestly still taboo to our older generations of Blacks and Whites.”

While many say interracial relationships are more widely accepted in today’s society, others believe that it is still an issue. Debbie Norrell, a New Pittsburgh Courier columnist, commented on a Facebook post that asked for opinions, saying, “Cheerios accomplished what they intended…publicity beyond their wildest dreams. So many like to say that interracial relationships do not bother them, but their tune changes when their son or daughter brings someone of a different hue home for dinner. Or still, even when we move in next door. Bias, prejudice and racism (are) still alive and well.”

She added, “Black men are my first and last choice and I’m not afraid to say it.”
    
Dashfield said in her case, although she’s never really had any negative experiences, she’s sure “there is still an undercurrent of bigotry that still pops up every now and then.” And, like Norrell, she said she’s sure there are still some people who say they accept it in public, but when they get home it’s different.
    
Whether one is for or against interracial relationships, it is safe to agree that this is definitely an issue that may always remain controversial.

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