' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Cheerios video promotes gay equality but smacks of racism

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cheerios video promotes gay equality but smacks of racism

There's a dark side to the Cheerios ad featuring a white gay Canadian couple with a darling little black girl, likely an American child, beyond the loss inherent in adoption. The ad smacks of colonialism, promoting the superiority of white homes as it promotes gay adoption.

The nearly three-minute video is of course intended to make us feel positive about Cheerios, manufactured by General Mills. While others have praised the ad for its positive image of gay men, how would the world feel about two gay black men raising a white baby? We seriously doubt it would have the same wide acceptance and elicit huzzahs from liberals. 

I'm not feeling my Cheerios in watching this ad, Actually I'm downright uncomfortable how the ad portrays adoption as sugar and spice and everything nice just like Cheerios.

The child is so clearly out of place--a very dark child with very white men. I imagine that in a few years, she is going to wonder "what am I doing here?" The racism inherent in the video has been missed by commentators, including the African-American syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. In a column headed, "Another milestone on the path to gay equality," he writes: "For the cereal to lend its name to a campaign presenting a family with two dads and a toddler as ... 'normal,' speaks to the great progress we have made in defusing the terror with which too many of us once regarded gay men and lesbians."

Leonard Pitts, Jr
In celebrating the "normalcy" of this family, Pitts ignores the obvious: the tragedy that a black American mother believed the best thing she could do for her child was to send her to two gays guys in Canada. In showcasing the progress of gay equality (as well as selling breakfast cereal), the ad should remind us how far black America is from equality. We are failing black families. That this child had a father who didn't or couldn't step up for his child is not a cause for celebration. Pitts should be well aware of this, having written a book about the difficulties black fathers face in nurturing their children, Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood.

Frank Ligtvoet, a gay adoptive father of two black children, is acutely aware of the abnormality of adoption, writing in the Huffington post "Adoption, Commodification, and Normalcy":
"Adoption is not a normal way to build a family. It is a complicated way, which next to happiness to adoptive parents brings sorrow and sadness for all involved. ...My kids are Black and I am white. I, being gay, have a biological mother who cared for me from day one. They have a first mother, who they seldom see. I have one set of parents and they have two. They have the traumatic experience of abandonment, which I don't have. They are the exception in almost every crowd, while I am the norm. They are displaced from a foreign world, while I stayed home. They are poor and I am rich."
The differences between the adoptive family and the natural family scream out in this ad. Perhaps General Mills is aware the ad may not sit well with some of us; that's why it hasn't been aired in the U. S., though it is readily available to anyone on the Internet.

I hasten to add that of course situations occur where a black child needs a home, and if that home can be provided by a white gay couple, so be it. What is happening though is that to meet the demand for babies in Canada and western Europe, the adoption industry has convinced poor black mothers that the best chance for their child is to be sent abroad where, mothers are led to believe--and there is some truth in it--there is less discrimination and the adoptive parents are rich according to articles in CNN, Overseas Adoption Rise for Black American Children, and the Portland Oregonian "Sending Black Babies North."  

Americans should be ashamed that we are sending our children away. Instead General Mills is using its implicit racism to promote that quintessential of American foods, breakfast cereal.--jane


Racism is not all that's wrong with this ad. Earlier Lorraine wrote about how the ad promotes adoption by portraying the adoptive family as better than the natural family and how displaying gay adoption increases the pressure on the adoption industry to find babies, at the expense of vulnerable mothers:
Cheerios Commercial: Gay dads adopt and sell cereal

Another Milestone on the path to gay equality
Adoption, Commodification and Normalcy
The White Man's Burden
Overseas Adoptions Rising
Sending Black Babies North
Canadian parents paying less to adopt African American babies

Struggle For Identity,  Special Edition

"Good educational and counseling resource 
This video brought abstract ideas into focus by showing their impact on real people in everyday life. I used it in a class on adolescent development dealing with identity formation and social differences. The young people who were interviewed echoed many of the issues we were reading about, especially those complicated by multiple sources of identity, including race and gender.
It was challenging for some students because they had to consider problems associated with interracial adoption beyond the very real & well meaning perspective of white parents and siblings. It opened up opportunities to discuss race in new ways, especially for majority students.
Just a great teaching tool. I also think it would be very helpful for counselors and others working with biracial families, adoption and interracial families and children."--M.S. Crowley on Amazon

"Ten years later, I viewed the original again. The issues in transracial adoption raised by the young adults back then are just as relevant today. This will continue to be an excellent training tool for professionals and adoptive parents. As a viewer and professional in the field, I was impressed by the conversation 10 years later with John and Michelle. The message from these two adoptees in 2007 is fundamentally the same, but it is now textured with maturity and years of experience working as professionals in an admittedly flawed foster care system. They both understand the flaws, yet are able to paint their picture in a clear, vibrant manner while capturing the nuances inherent in the interactions of human beings. The videos "deleted scenes" are a bonus and well worth viewing. The overall production is user-friendly, crisp and clear. Bravo to John and Michelle and bravo to Citizens' Coalition for Children on producing such a valuable video."--Ernesto Loperena, Executive Director of New York Council on Adoptable Children, Inc.


  1. Frank Ligtvoet: Here a fine piece by an adoptee on the same subject: http://redthreadbroken.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/the-cheerios-effect-andre-jonathan-raphaelles-story-response/

  2. Wow, I hardly know where to start. What in the world do two men adopting a child have to do with Cheerio's? It is wrong on so many levels. Someone needs to send those men some books.
    It won't be long before they will have to start dealing with that darling little girls problems. She is going to need a lot more than two hansom dad's. All you need is love is BS & the sooner adoptive parents start educating them selves the better.

  3. Good point: what if it were two black men raising a white baby? That is a very clear, concise way to put it, because that is a situation we will never see. There is definitely a racist thing going on here.

    I would like to meet up with this adorable little girl in about 18 years. I'd love to hear her feelings regarding all of this. Because, as usual, nobody ever asks the sweet, adorable little adoptee.

  4. Excellent points, Jane and Lorraine! You add much-needed colors to this issue... in this bright and lightly lit commercial, the shade of little Raphaelle's skin is the only one that really stands out, without your commentary.

  5. When I view the video I see a love story between the "dads". That is what is portrayed. As the video moves on I see that Raphaelle is an addition to complete the dream. She appears to be almost a prop.

    How can I take it seriously? Raphaelle should have been the first part of the video. Her story first and then the "dads" love story. It is almost as if she did not exist before the "dads" met and fell in love.

    I guess that is the difference between a couple creating a child biologically and a couple creating a family through adoption. With biology the mother and father start the story. In adoption this is not the case as the adopted child has his/her own history before their "parents" meet them. But that history and story for so many is hidden or unimportant in THE story. THE story is that Raphaelle completed the "dads" love story and everyone lives happily ever after. Cheerios and all.

    But like all things the story is not over until it is over. At some point Raphaelle's story will have a voice, be it public or in her head. Will it be a happy story for her? Only time will tell.

  6. I found myself thinking along the same lines with the so-called 'adoption' of Veronica BROWN when Veronica's native American and Hispanic background were tossed out in favor of her being raised by a white couple.

    . We give so much lip service in this country to all peoples and all cultures being equal, yet white cultural superiority seems implied, imo, when far more minority children are placed in white families than the other way around.

    I even wrote about this issue in my guest post "Ain't I an adoptee?" at Kellie's blog, "All in the Family of Adoption":

    "There is another very troubling question that continues to haunt me and it's one that I don't have the answer to. Are all of these adoptions by white singles and couples, of children of any background, just reinforcing the belief that white culture is superior? Take, for example, people like Christy Maldonado choosing a white family for her mixed race daughter, rather than letting her be raised in her Native American culture. Since all cultures and races really are equal, why is it usually white people who keep walking off with everyone else's kids? And where is the respect for the child's original culture and background?"


    1. Robin: any transracial or inter-country adoption I have ever known personally certainly does seem to support the idea that white culture is superior. The woman I know who adopted a girl from Korea always told her that she would have been "alone and in the streets" if she and her husband had not adopted her and taken her to the US. Yet, this woman NEVER gave a nod to the girl's heritage or culture. The girl was given a Scottish-sounding name and expected to blend in. They are now estranged.

      The other similar adoptions that I know personally also did not work out. One mother whose son is from Chile said he "never appreciated anything we did for him." Whenever she speaks of him she clearly thinks she did him a favor by adopting him.

      Then there was the woman in my previous neighborhood, who had 2 bio children. She was always on her soapbox saying how she wanted to adopt a baby. "Not just ANY baby, but a BLACK baby" she would say. And then she would carry on about all the things her (white, Jewish) family could give this lucky black baby. All the opportunities, and the nice house, etc. Yes, she was going to save the world, one black baby at a time. She was not even able to handle her own 2 children....I have no idea who she thought she was kidding, or impressing. Thankfully, we moved and I did not keep in touch with her.

      But the common denominator always seems to be that white culture is the superior one, and any child adopted into one of these entitled families sure is lucky. And had better be grateful and appreciative. It's sickening. And certainly not fair to the adoptee who, once again, we not consulted on the matter.

      Thanks for the think. Your post on the other blog was great.



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