Are You Ready for Post-Racial Cheerios?

It kilt me dead.

It kilt me dead.

Y’all gon’ have to give me a late pass for this one. But a few weeks ago, Cheerios dropped a commercial that featured a mixed-race couple (that don’t actually share any screen time together) and their hybrid child in an adorable spot highlighting children’s desire to keep their parents alive.

Let me tell you all something; I’m impressionable. I have GEICO insurance because those damn commercials entertained me so much. My HVAC guys? A company in DC who has a jingle that my daughter recited to me so I figured, hey, they must be good, they give good jingle. If you tell me something is good (and tell me something good) I’m liable to give it a shot because, again, I’m impressionable. So Cheerios dropping this commercial that shows that somebody said – in a meeting, no less – that America is more diverse now, let’s be more diverse has convinced me that I should buy more Cheerios. It also helps that my daughter, who has hair like that child, loves Cheerios. So they win by default.

So stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Company debuts commercial with mixed race parentage. Racists lose their sh*t. Nutcases come out of the woodworks. We live in interesting times, and this is part of the reason why print journalism is failing. Everything is a conversation. For many of us, our entire lives are centered around as much of ourselves as possible while still maintaining some semblance of privacy. Well within that, everybody becomes immediately accountable. Now, this accountability isn’t necessarily to any person in particular, but no bad idea goes unpunished. Look at the case with rap lyrics nowadays. There was a time not too long ago when you could say whatever the f*ck you wanted and there would be little to no real backlash short of sales. Well, now if you say something ridiculous, there are slews of people ready and willing to take you to task and mobilize, even for a short time. This all comes from the change to constant communication.

Well, this means that any loon with access to a computer (read: like almost everybody) can offer an opinion, unfiltered and with reckless abandon. So it stands to reason that the minute a commercial that includes a couple of racemixers (or swirlers…wait, are you only a swirler if you’re a Black woman? I really have no clue) hits the public sphere, the Stonewall Jackson supporters and Black folks who hate interracial love are going to make their opinions known. For a situation like this, the responses to the commercial dominate the conversation. Hell, Cheerios had to disable comments on that video because of some of the disgusting racist things that were said.

I know we elected Obama twice and all, but I’m sure we can all agree that the term post-racial isn’t an actuality. I think even the least racist person in the room would still immediately take notice of the fact that this child (who could have easily been used in a commercial with two Black parents and nobody would have thought twice about it) was referring to this white woman as momma. Part of that is that by the time something hits mainstream commercials, its somehow depicted as…normal. And I’m not sure we’re ready as a country to view interracial couples – namely Black and white since let’s be real, that’s the only place 90 percent of the outrage comes from in interracial dating – as normal.

Sure, interracial dating and marriage has seen significant increases over the past few decades. But it still bothers a lot of people since it hits on a lot of hot button issues for a lot of people.

Look, diversity is here. That sh*t is cool. It rocks. But its not without some broken eggs. Some Black and white men and women still feel some kind of way about seeing miscegenation. They just do. And they always will. It harkens back to the traditionalist view of society. While we don’t mind rooting for our favorite football team which just so happens to be full of Black folks, we don’t necessarily want them coming over for dinner. I remember growing up having this conversation. Remember, I went to high school in Alabama. Anyway, this conversation was about racism. It happened in one of my history classes and a few white students claimed very plainly to not have a single racist bone in their bodies. So one of my hombres, a Black dude, asked if any of them had any Black people in their homes. Ever. I kid you not, not one of them could say they had. Thing is, I don’t fault them. I’m sure most of the Black students could say the same thing though probably for different reasons. I’m not saying white people are more racist since I don’t really believe that to be true. But studies have shown that Black people tend to be more tolerant of diversity than white people, in general. This is nowhere more prominent than in housing.

Either way, the point of that is, while I know we’ve come a long way, I’m not sure people are fully ready to view something like interracial dating as a commonplace occurrence. Sure it’s just a commercial. But most commercials are supposed to be reflective of common life to get you to use common products. Most of us like our images of society held intact. But this is also why so many Black folks hate seeing big boneded Black women hawking chicken. For many of us, it does feel like nearly all commercials with Black folks trend towards stereotypes.

Then again, maybe we are all just stereotypes anyway. Hmmm…

At the end of the day, I think the commercial is cute. But I can’t pretend I don’t see how something as simple as a cereal commercial can stir up controversy and bring out the worst in people. There are some lines folks ain’t ready to cross yet. And its not just white people.

But when in doubt, as always, just blame Jim Jones. Or Tyler Perry. Actually, I’m surprised Tyler Perry hasn’t made a movie about interracial dating yet.

Where’s his number?

So what do you all think? Is it a big deal? Is America ready to view interracial dating, marriage, and procreation as the norm in mainstream society? OR, possibly more importantly, does the controversy over commentary on sites get overblown on stuff like this and for the most part, nobody really cares?

Talk to me. Petey.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONSIT aka MR. HALF BREED – HALF AMAZING aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

Seven Things I Think I Think About Quvenzhané Wallis, The Onion, Outrage, Comedy Writing, C*nt, And Being A Robot

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1. I think I first heard the word “cunt” when I was 12 years old. (Actually, this is a lie. I know without a doubt that was my first time hearing it. But, in keeping with today’s theme, I’m staying with “I think.”) It was halftime of an AAU tournament game. We were up a couple points against a team we should have been beating by 50, and our coach was livid. I wasn’t having a particularly good game, and the coach, um, let me know about it, calling me a “scared shitless cunt.”

Although I didn’t know what a cunt was, the spit congregating in the corners of his month gave me the idea that it wasn’t a good thing to be. After learning what it meant, I eventually categorized it with “cock,” “prick,” and “jizz” on my list of “Weird colloquialisms White people—and Black people who’ve spent too much time around White people and/or watching White porn—use to describe sexual things” and I probably didn’t hear it aloud for (at least) another decade.

It wasn’t until later (and by “later” I mean “like three years ago”) that I realized cunt is considered by many to be the single most offensive word in the English language, and I’m not sure about why this is. I mean, for other words that have been deemed unspeakable—nigger and bitch, specifically—there are clear historical, political, and sociological reasons for it. And, while cunt is a vulgar way of describing a vagina, it doesn’t seem any more vulgar than pussy or twat or cooze or any of the dozens of other slang terms for female body parts that have been used as slurs against women and 12 year old basketball players committing too many turnovers.

I guess what I’m asking is if there was a particular tipping point for cunt that I’m not aware of? What is it about this particular word that makes it dirtier and nastier than the rest?

(Personally, I think it may be due to the fact that the word just sounds nastier than most other words. It’s pronounced in a way that makes it seem like an ominous whisper. It also has a hard T ending, which can make a word sound like it has a perpetual sneer.)

2.  I think I totally get what whoever is in charge of The Onion’s Twitter account was attempting to do Sunday night. The preternaturally cute, talented, and charming Quvenzhané Wallis is the last person anyone would think to call a cunt, so the tweet was very obvious satire. In this sense, it was no different than saying “Those Phoenix winters sure are cold.”

But, just because something “structurally” works doesn’t mean it’s appropriate, or funny, and if a piece of satire is inappropriate, offensive, and lacking humor, it doesn’t work. This isn’t to say that Quvenzhane Wallis is impervious to satire or that you can never use that word in a joke. But, anyone who attempts to create that type of humor should also have enough wherewithal to know that certain things are just flat out wrong, and using a sexual reference—the most vulgar sexual reference at that—to joke about a nine year old actress is exactly that.

Whoever wrote that tweet didn’t just shoot and miss. They shot, missed, and put a hole through the f*cking backboard.

3. I think many people who regularly write jokes and other forms of potentially provocative/offensive material for a living have cold sweats about what happened last night. I know I do.

When your popularity/readership/relevance is predicated on being funny, or entertaining, or irreverent or whatever, you’re encouraged to push the envelope on what’s acceptable to say. Usually, it works. But, when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work, and the push back received from the one time it doesn’t work exponentially exceeds the praise received all the other times it did. This does not feel good.

Writers have to be especially careful with Twitter, as a potentially offensive standalone tweet just isn’t able to have the same context that same statement might have in a middle of a book or 30 minute comedy routine.

I’m not complaining, mind you. People who produce this type of content are aware of this dichotomy, and it’s just something you learn to deal with. It’s an inevitable occupational hazard that leaves you with two choices: Find something else to do, or get better and grow thicker skin.

4. I think I loved how quickly social media descended on the Onion’s tweet. Thousands of people—Black, White, and other—immediately called them out, eventually leading to the tweet being taken down and the Onion issuing a formal apology. Basically, the Onion stepped out of line, and a hundred thousand people responded, ultimately saying “Don’t worry, Quvenzhané. We got your back.”

But, as much as the emotive/visceral part of me loved to see that happen, I did feel some ambivalence. The outrage was supposed to protect Quvenzhane, but without it, I doubt she even finds out the tweet exists. Like millions of other controversial tweets, it would have been forgotten about in 10 minutes. Now, the reaction to the tweet is a bigger story than the tweet itself. And, while she might have come across this tweet before it became a story, there’s no doubt she will—and will probably be interviewed about it—now. Basically, while this was supposed to protect her, it places her in the line of fire.

Ultimately, the outrage was a positive. The tweet got deleted, and the Onion issued an apology. This would not have happened without that. It also served as a reminder that “free speech” doesn’t equal “accountability-less speech.”

Most importantly—well, most importantly to many—it was a very swift and public pushback to Black women and girls being disrespected in some form in the mass media, a too rare sign that people are in fact there to protect them.

All that considered, it still doesn’t sit completely right with me. It just seems like while the attention brought to the tweet about Quvenzhane helps Black women and girls in general, it didn’t help Quvenzhane specifically. I’m not sure what else could or should have been done to protect her though.

I expressed these views on Twitter yesterday, and—among other things—I was accused of being myopic. I actually don’t disagree with this. I realize my tendency to see certain things in very black/white absolutist terms leaves some blind spots. (While discussing this yesterday, Panama called me a robot. I am a human being, so naturally I disagreed.) It’s not that I ignore nuance and context. But, I do think that too much of it has a tendency to cloud the truth.

(For instance, in the Dorner case, I just can’t get past the fact that he likely killed that couple. There are no “Yeah, but’s” for me, no sympathy, no nothing. If he did that, nothing else he did as far as exposing corruption or fighting the power matters to me.)

Anyway, I’m bringing this up because although I feel how I feel about the effect of the outrage not sitting right with me, I also realize that I could very well be wrong. There may be something here I’m just not seeing, and perhaps what happened was both the best way to approach this issue and the best way to defend Quvenzhane.

5. I think the Onion’s tweet wasn’t even the most disturbing Quvenzhane-related thing I saw yesterday. Apparently, quite a few people feel she is quite full of herself, and the flexing she did whenever the camera was on her confirmed (to them) that she was a little asshole-in-training.

There are a thousand different things you can say about all of this—how confident Black people are still thought by many to be uppity/cocky, how she’s a freaking 9 YEAR OLD GIRL having the time of her life, etc—but three questions have to be asked:

Did these people not see the f*cking movie??? Don’t they realize she was just mimicking what her character (“Hushpuppy”) does in the movie’s most memorable scene??? Do they even know what “Beast it!!!” means???

6. I think our resident Obsidian brought up a good point yesterday. Everyone was rightly and justifiably angry about the Onion’s tweet. Yet, many of us—myself included—are very selective about who deserves our outrage. Often, this selection is determined by likability. Basically, wrong is wrong, even if you don’t agree with the politics held by a person a wrong is committed against.

7. I think Beasts is a spellbinding, captivating, enchanting, engaging, and completely unique movie. I’m not sure if it was good, though. While I was fascinated with it—and even may have even accidentally rubbed some salt in my eye that forced them to water a little—once I got out of my post-movie haze a couple hours later, I couldn’t help but think that I just watched a 100 minute long ode to child abuse.

Maybe P was right. I just might be a robot.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)