What can we learn from a cereal box?
The back of a cereal box sparked controversy on social media last week. A colorful illustration depicted corn pops characters frolicking in a shopping mall—playing in an arcade, splashing around in a fountain, walking on spoon stilts, and skateboarding down an escalator.
In the middle of the drawing of yellow corn pops characters, however, was one that some thought appeared to have brown skin. What struck Saladin Ahmed, a science fiction and Marvel Comics writer, is that the brown corn pop was a janitor who was waxing the floor, according to USA TODAY. He tweeted to Kellogg’s: “(W)hy is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? This is teaching kids racism.” Kellogg’s has since announced it will be redesigning the cereal boxes, stating, “We did not intend to offend—we apologize.”
What? A corn pop racially insensitive? Ahmed’s tweet, as you can imagine, brought all sorts of reactions. “We are living in a time where people are accusing cereal of being racist,” one tweet read, reported the Washington Post. Others asked, Do Corn Pops have a race? One suggested that the corn pop was wearing a hat, which casted a shadow on its face. “Sensitive much?” the tweet charged. Another asked, “Is being a janitor a bad thing? Or is it that the dark pop is the only one wearing clothes and with a job?”
To some, it may seem petty. But after considering Ahmed’s second tweet, you may begin to see his point: It’s “a tiny thing,” he added, “but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same.” Certainly, we all could stand to be more racially sensitive—especially to what our children may be picking up from our words or actions, even when they’re unintentionally offensive. Kellogg’s is to be commended for quickly correcting any misperceptions.
Indeed, it is important for us to be socially engaged and sensitive to issues concerning marginalized people. Unfortunately, we do live in a society where ethnic diversity and racism are still major issues, and Baptists must make it clear again and again where Christians should stand, for the sake of the gospel, which promotes peace and God’s love for all people.
Tennessee Baptists this past week had to do so, denouncing “White Lives Matter” rallies, which are seen as especially vitriolic about immigrants and refugees, and repudiating white supremacy as “a work of the devil, designed to dehumanize and divide.” In a statement urging every follower of Jesus to speak out against white supremacy, Russell Moore, Frank Page and Randy Davis joined other area Christian leaders in declaring, “We also pray for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see the error through the light of the gospel, repent of these hatreds and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God.”
In an op-ed piece published in The Tennessean, Moore, who heads Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote, “Racism does what as a Christian I believe the devil exists to do: to kill and to destroy and to exalt the idolatry of self.” He warned, “If we cannot call this what it is, we will sow in cowardice what we will reap in violence.”
But, even as we call out those responsible for such “vile displays of bigotry” that stir up hatred among us, we also should reflect on the racial unity of our churches and on creeping racial biases still present in our own lives. Let’s take to heart the words of an old hymn, “Search Me, O God,” by J. Edwin Orr:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart today, Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me; Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
“… Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; Fill my poor heart with thy great love divine; Take all my will, my passion, self and pride; I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.”