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In 1958, the movie “Tamango” (featuring Dorothy Dandridge, a black actress) and Curd Jurgens (a white actor) nearly caused riots when they did the unthinkable. They kissed.
It was the first interracial kiss in cinema. The movie was banned in the United States because it violated the race-mixing code of the Motion Picture Production Code.
It took 10 more years for someone to try it again. This time, it was a TV series that broke the taboo between white and black. On “Star Trek” (1968 episode “Plato’s Children”), Captain James Kirk and communications officer Nyota Uhura shocked audiences and entered the record books by exchanging the first interracial kiss on television.
Ah, but all that ruckus about interracial relations was more than 40 years ago. Americans have learned to accept and embrace diversity.
Clint Eastwood and Vonetta McGee kissing (1970s) in “The Eiger Sanction.” Roger Moore (007) doing the dirty deed with Grace Jones (1980s). And the 1990s capped off the millennium with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston doing it to music.
This isn’t an issue anymore, right?
Well, last May, General Mills began running a commercial in which a little girl is asking her white mother if Cheerios are good for the heart. Upon hearing that they are, the next scene shows her black father waking up to find a pile of Cheerios on his chest that his daughter put there believing that this would be healthy for his heart.
Now how cute is that?
Well, it got ugly quickly. General Mills posted the commercial on YouTube, and before you could say, “May I have a second helping, please?” regressive bigots came out in force and started complaining about the commercial.
And what they had to say wasn’t good for the heart, the ears, or any other part of a healthy person.
“It’s disgusting!” “My kids had to watch this trash!” “She’s a single parent in the making. That lazy black will leave his family soon enough!”
The commercial was called “sinister,” “an abomination,” and “an example of racial genocide.” General Mills was accused of being race traitors, shoving vile propaganda down our throats.
The comments on the Cheerios Facebook page were so repulsive, General Mills had to remove and disable the comments section.
One would think that interracial marriages are unheard today. Approximately 8.5 percent of marriages in the United States are interracial (nearly 3 million). And in the past couple years, interracial marriages account for 15 percent of new marriages. Clearly, Cheerios was giving its public something of merit to chew on.
Sam Cooke died in 1964 and soon after “A Change is Gonna Come,” was released posthumously. It is perhaps the most widely known song of his, a wonderful ballad that sings of a day when color does not determine a person’s character or worth.
And perhaps that day is on the horizon. Through the dark cloud of ignorant hatred spewed by baggers, a light of hope shines through. A group of children was shown the Cheerios commercial and then told that the commercial made many people angry.
The children asked “Why?” When told that people were offended that the commercial had a black married to a white, the expressions on the faces on these little angels were priceless. The children were shocked that anyone could, or would be mad about this.
“What’s wrong with those people?” “They’re angry? When was this commercial made, the 1950s? That’s so stupid!”
“That’s messed up!”
One child asked, “What’s wrong with them? Didn’t Martin Luther King fix this years ago?”
If you’re listening, Sam, that change hasn’t come yet, but it is coming. Another little girl shook her head and said, “People shouldn’t judge each other by the color of their skin, or their religion, or anything that’s different. They should only judge a person based on their character.”
We can only hope that as these children grow into adults of the future, they don’t become adults of the present.
I have one last comment to share. Cheers to Cheerios!