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by Lavern Merriweather

Perhaps, I’m a little oversensitive or reading way too much into this but there is something about the latest Cheerios commercial that really, really bugs me. And it’s not even just the commercial itself, but the one that immediately follows it. In the first commercial you have a father with his infant son in a high seat who pours some Cheerios cereal for his son on the tray of his high chair. Then, the father steps away momentarily as another little boy, also his son, comes along and snatches away some of his little brother’s treat. When the dad returns, he says “the Cheerios bandit got you again” as the baby son laughs.

After that commercial, there is another one featuring a young white mother with her infant daughter. In the second commercial there is no older child to come along and steal from the younger sibling. It’s just mommy and her daughter sharing a ‘moment’. In the words of Dana Carvey “Well isn’t that special!”

Obviously the parents in both commercials are very loving and protective of their children since they are in high chairs that feature seat belts. Yet, in only one there is a criminal element. In spite of what those 90’s Sprite commercials would have you believe image is everything when you are young, black and growing up in America where you have to spend most of your life going damn near out of your way to find any representations of yourself that are even remotely positive and getting no help at all from the brains at Madison Avenue.

Self-esteem, especially at a young age, is a very important thing, even more so to those who only get negative reinforcement any time they watch the news, turn on a TV, pop in a DVD or open up a magazine. Hell, most of the magazine covers tell a tale of how invisible black people are and if we are not invisible, then we are only shown in a bad light. I’m reminded of the Vanity Fair controversy where less than a month after featuring a whites only article and photo spread of up-and-coming movie starlets, they turn right around and put Tiger Woods on the cover with no shirt an angry scowl on his face and a black skull cap. He looked like an out-of-place gangbanger who got lost on the way to a carjacking.

Let’s not kid ourselves here, people. The white males who run the advertising game want to do everything humanly possible to inform us of what a bunch of worthless, lowlife, despicable degenerates we truly are. I remember long ago on the classic show Soul Train where comedian Arsenio Hall made a joke about the difference between fast food commercials with white people and black people. He said why is it that in the commercials with white people they just come in and order food but in the commercials with black people that have to do a musical number complete with singing and dancing. So, according to Mcdonald’s, ordering a burger for black people is way too boring. They have to turn it into a production of ‘Porgy and Bess’.

It’s basically that way with 99 percent of advertisements. Our shit has to have some element they wouldn’t dream of using with white people and vice-versa. I very rarely see black people or POC period in commercials for fancy expensive cars. Yes, they do exist, but the majority of people starring in those commercials are mostly white and young. That’s some serious food for thought, and I’ll bet if anyone reading this thinks about it hard enough they can come up with their own examples, because trust me, they are out there.

However, we spend so much time disregarding them because we are told to not play the ‘race card’ so much and that we are far too paranoid. Wow, I can’t even BEGIN to imagine why that is! Could it be that we have had so many decades upon decades of the dominant culture telling who us we are and what we are supposed to be? It’s like that scene in the Oscar winning movie Crash where actor Tony Danza who plays a Hollywood producer of a hit TV show feels he has the right to tell opposite Terrence Howard, who plays a writer for the show, how a young black male would ‘really’ speak. Well, I guess if you watch enough What’s Happening episodes, that must pretty much make you an expert on black folks, huh?

Black people know how the game is played yet we keep falling for it. Many of our most beloved programs were made by people that are just like the character played by Mr. Danza, and so are most of the commercials, which is why I don’t like the current one from Cheerios. What you might call paranoid I call just paying very close attention.