A new commercial from cereal-company Cheerios featuring an interracial family has drawn so much online hate that YouTube comments for the official video have been shut down.
"The comments that were made in our view were not family-friendly, and that was really the trigger for us, you know, to pull them off,'' Camille Gibson, VP marketing for General Mills, shared with NBC's "TODAY" on Monday.
The 30-second commercial features a young biracial girl asking her white mother if Cheerios is good for one's heart. When the mother affirms that that is true, the girl takes the cereal box and runs away. Later, her African-American father wakes up on the sofa covered in Cheerios.
"Just Checking," as the ad is called, was posted up on May 28 on YouTube and has since been viewed over 1,700,000 times. But it has apparently received so many hateful and racist comments that the company was forced to shut down the comments section.
"I'm not surprised at the reaction, because social media is kind of the new Ku Klux Klan white hood,'' TODAY's Star Jones said about the controversy.
"It allows you to be anonymous and to say the kinds of things that you would never say to a person to their face. But a lot of this is generational also. People in my generation are still stuck in giving the side eye to an interracial couple. I think younger people have gotten used to seeing black and white, and Latin and black, and Latin and white. That's not going to be an issue in years to come."
As for why Cheerios chose to use an interracial family for its commercial, Gibson explained that much like President Barack Obama, who comes from a mixed-race family, interracial households in America are becoming more prominent.
"Ultimately we were trying to portray an American family, and there are lots of multicultural families in America today,'' Gibson said.
Meredith Tutterow, associate marketing director for Cheerios and Multigrain Cheerios at General Mills in Golden Valley, Minn., added last week that the ad will definitely not be withdrawn.
"There are many kinds of families and Cheerios just wants to celebrate them all," Tutterow said, according to the New York Times.
Despite some backlash, many online users have praised the commercial and supported Cheerios in its decision not to take it down.
"My husband and I are an interracial couple. He is African American and I am white. I was so impressed with the way Cheerios stood up to those racist comments and stated that it would absolutely not withdraw its new commercial. I will definitely remember this and intend to be a LOYAL Cheerios customer. Thank you Cheerios for doing the right thing," one Facebook user wrote.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the rate of interracial married couples in America has been growing in the past few decades – from 650,000 in 1980 to almost 2.5 million in 2009, which is approximately 4 percent of all American married couples.
Cheerios "Just Checking" commercial: