“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world” -Zora Neale Hurston.
Recently, Cheerios released a new ad. It opens with a young biracial girl talking to her white mother about her black father’s health. It closes with the mother confirming that cheerios is indeed good for the heart and the father waking up covered in cheerios. It’s a really cute ad. So, why is it under fire?
While it may reflect the changing look of the American family, for some this “new look” actually digs up centuries of pain, self-hate, and a reminder of what used to be true beauty (and what is still preferred, though slightly less so).
I’d like to point out that it’s not wholly the interracial element. Please remember Nivea had a lovely commercial where a black woman rocking her natural curly fro was kissed all over by her white man. So, the point isn’t: one black face, one white face. It’s to whom these faces belong.
As a black woman, I cannot count all of the times I have spoken to black women who believe that a black man dating a white woman is still one of the worst betrayals to the black community. And this is not relegated to a “kind of black woman.” From women who have attained high educational levels to women still navigating the halls of middle school, we cannot help but to take it just a bit personal when members of our community jump ship.
It was frustrating pre-Civil Rights Era when black men were killed for even making eye contact with white women. It was frustrating post-Civil Rights era when they seemingly forgot all of the atrocities the black community suffered at the hands of women who suffered “jungle fever.” It was frustrating when they were the prize, the ultimate symbol of beauty, the sign of status, and we were the women who carried you through and yet we were the women abandoned.
“You stay right girl, and when he get on and leave ya ass for a white girl.” -Kanye West
This is an ongoing struggle within our community and regardless of whether the rest of America likes it or not it is the job of the advertiser to understand the baggage that viewers digest their message with. Context is, always has been, key to how well an advertisement works.
I can understand why this commercial came under fire and others who don’t should research our history a little more and drop the idealistic attitude that love is just love because we are still fighting over those definitions today. Love is not just love when a black man loves a white woman. It’s a pain for black women who are reminded that although we achieve high levels of success, raise children, and can still get home and cook you the greens your momma used to make, our kinky hair, dark eyes, and thick lips still aren’t what you want.