The Furor Over the Old Navy Ad

tdy_mor_oldnavy_160503.today-inline-vid-featured-desktopAs the late, great Yogi Berra would say: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Only this time, we’re not talking about baseball. This time it’s about television commercials featuring a multiracial family.

As you may recall, several years ago, a furor erupted when Cheerios featured a multiracial family in a commercial. Of course, when I say “family” I use that term loosely, as the commercial featured actors portraying a family. In fact, as far as anyone knows, not only are these actors not even “play cousins” it’s entirely possible that they don’t like each other (though why wouldn’t they, since they all do love Cheerios).

Nevertheless, apparently, the mere depiction of a multiracial family is so horrific to some people, that it caused a furor, an uproar, a sh*tstorm of really nasty racist comments. By the way, for purposes of this essay a “sh*tstorm” is a term of quantification meaning enormous, gargantuan, and/or so big as to defy description in a term actually defined in a dictionary.

At the same time, on a positive note, the airing of the Cheerios ad led to a blizzard (and a blizzard larger than aforesaid sh*tstorm) of incredibly warm and supportive comments promoting tolerance generally and multiracial families specifically. And, of course, there were a third category of comments, which generally were something like “ooh, interracial sex is hot.” Putting that latter group of comments aside, though, the positive comments were, indeed, quite positive.

What’s more, multiracial families (including my own) literally came out of the woodwork to proclaim the fact of their existence and their pride in that fact. Why we were embedded in the woodwork in the first place is unknown to this day (as there’s no known correlation between entering into a multiracial relationship or family and a fondness for hiding in furniture or paneling). However, the Cheerios ad had the effect of empowering us to release ourselves from our own wooden bondage and to proclaim to the World: “We’re here. We’re . . .” (oh, wait, that’s another group’s chant). So, we released ourselves from our wooden bondage and proclaimed to the World, “we’re all mixed up” (metaphorically speaking, of course. Since most of us within this very proud community pride ourselves on being intelligent, organized people who are not particularly mixed up cerebrally, though some, and I include myself in this group, do tend to forget stuff more and more frequently these days).

In any event, the positive outpouring was so significant, that it seemed maybe we had turned a corner. Maybe the country was finally going “post-racial.”

Of course, given our society’s inability to go “post” anything very successfully (see, e.g., previous failed efforts to go post-modernist, post-nuclear, and post-gluten), it was inevitable that the obituaries about racism were a tad bit premature.

Indeed, three years from the Cheerios ad, Old Navy (the casual clothier with some tongue-in-cheek, madcap elan) decided to run its own ad featuring a multiracial family and faster than you can say “Holy racists, Batman,” the bile-filled, venomous, racist comments poured forth. Well, not so much poured, as “pouring” suggests a slow-moving, molasses-like liquid, like syrup or, well, molasses, but really rained down, like giant golf-ball-globules of hate-rain. But, then, just as before, came the even bigger torrent of supportive comments, praising Old Navy and praising multiracial families. And, when I say “torrent” I mean in an Old Testament, Noah’s Ark kind of way.

So, where does that leave us? Has the country turned a corner? Are multiracial families becoming so commonplace that racism against them is doomed to fail?

Well, it’s pretty clear that racism has not been relegated to the dustbin of history. No, like the plastic varmints in a whack-o-mole game, racists tend to emerge frequently and unexpectedly and with a velocity that is surprising even when it seems that you’ve defeated them all. On the other hand, the positive outpouring in support of multiracial families every time one of these episodes occurs does suggest we are perhaps at a tipping point., or if one can be so bold a “browning point” – i.e., a point when there are some many multiracial people in the nation that literally everyone is going to be some shade of brown, thereby making racism somewhat irrelevant, for to engage in it would amount to almost Freudian self-hatred.

Of course, we won’t know for sure where we are till we see an ad for cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off that features a multiracial family and a corresponding comment by a known virulently racist group that says: “whaddya gonna do? Besides, cucumber is delicious . . . and very refreshing”

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