We did a commercial for Sonic-Drive In. It was a fun experience, something completely out of the norm and we enjoyed the opportunity to do something so different together. It’s been fun watching people message us videos of them watching it or ask us if we’re “that Sonic family.” Recently, however, I received a message from a member of my online community asking if I had seen the Reddit thread about my family with a link to view it and it took us down a rabbit hole. Generally speaking, we don’t read comments on outside sources because we learned long ago that people often have unkind things to say and how someone else judges us is none of our concern. This time however was different and not for the reasons you would think.
The original thread from Reddit was talking about how our family dynamic didn’t make sense and how when Sonic does their casting they should at least make the families they select look “real.” This was an issue in and of itself because of how closed-minded do we need to be to not understand how our family could have come about but that wasn’t what had our attention. The larger problem we found was one of the comments that said that the Youtube comments were a good read, so of course, we went to the commercial on Youtube, and there we found ourselves completely perplexed by the problems we saw.
The comments were, of course, full of blatant racism but unfortunately, we’re used to that. The other thing that we are unfortunately used to is hearing people say “racism isn’t real.” So for those of you that don’t believe racism is alive and well, this first set of comments is for you.
So, you read those comments and you think…what could be more concerning or even equally concerning? Well, let’s take a look at this second set of comments and keep in mind that this isn’t even all of them along these same lines as this thread contained 300+ comments.
We’re propaganda, did you see that? My family is being shoved down people’s throats so that they HAVE to love black men and white women. My family is being used by the left as a tool to force their agenda. Seeing more people of color or interracial families in commercials is “anti-white” yet when your TV screens were filled with less color you felt more comfortable and you didn’t consider it “anti-black.”
There’s a lot to break down here, so let’s do it.
First, I want to address the fact that when companies ask us to be in commercials or ads we are fully aware that we are being asked to be in their marketing for diversity purposes and yes, sometimes it makes us uncomfortable. When I was married prior with a white husband and a white child, not one company asked to use our family for advertising but as soon as Bedford and I were married and more so once we had children we are asked OFTEN. So yes, do we have beautiful children? Absolutely. But is there a diversity aspect to it? 100%. Does it bother us? Sometimes. BUT if we want our children and ultimately the world to see color and diversity in the media that surrounds them, we need to be willing to contribute. When approached by Sonic we weighed our options and accepted based on the fact that Sonic has played a large role in our family’s story. Bedford and I used to get blue Powerade slushies every weekend when we were dating. We took our kids to get drinks before every one of their basketball games and all I wanted to drink during one of my pregnancies was Cherry Limeade, it aligned with us and they compensated us for our time. We recognize that companies who have histories of not using people of color or have lacked diversity in their marketing are reaching out and trying to be different but what are their intentions? Are their intentions to truly change or to avoid the controversy that comes from not having diverse representation? It’s not always possible to know but we had an opportunity to let other people of color and interracial families see themselves represented in the media around them and whatever role we can play in that has value.
Second, companies aren’t “woke” for starting to run ads with more people of color, many of them are trying to be better. Companies find themselves under fire by a community that feels underrepresented as they are never seen in marketing or ads and companies extinguish that fire by adding representation only to be met with another fire. Except this one is a community that is upset that another race or demographic is being more frequently represented in the media they are intaking. Which one of those scenarios are you more comfortable with? The one being fueled by the desire to feel seen as a human being doing regular things like getting burgers with your family or the side that finds themselves disturbed by a family that looks different than theirs getting burgers with THEIR family.
The way I see it, companies running ads with people of color isn’t the problem, the fact that YOU NOTICED is the problem because what does that mean? It means that for years you’ve watched, read, driven past or even scrolled through media that felt “normal.” But if seeing more color feel’s like it’s being forced upon you…what was the “normal” that you felt comfortable with? Certainly, the white community hasn’t been eliminated from the media you view. In fact, in a study done by a professor from the University of Illinois-Chicago just 3 years ago, where a sample of 1,620 ads on ABC, NBC, and Fox were evaluated, African Americans appeared in 32% of commercials. Additionally….3.3% of commercials were all black actors while 58.8% were all white actors. 28.7% were black and white actors and 9.1% featured other races or ethnicities. So I think it’s important to note here….that increase does not equate to inundation. 3.3% vs. 58.8% is far from force-feeding you diversity.
Third, the reason that I find the second set of comments more concerning is that at least the first set isn’t trying to hide their racism. The second set of comments contains a comment that says “nothing about hate, it’s about yet another company trying to push an agenda” and that my friends is the bigger problem. The people who try to pretend that these types of comments aren’t about hate. The people who try to say that they don’t have issues with race yet take the time to type out a comment siting that they’ve noticed an increase in the diversity of their media and don’t like it. Those are the people who concern me the most because they continue to hide behind the privilege that you must feel spending a lifetime feeling comfortably represented in the world in which you grew up. Representation matters. My daughters seeing Princesses that look like them matters. My sons seeing superheroes that look like them, matters. My children seeing other families represented in the commercials, pamphlets, billboards, internet banners, and more that look like them and their family MATTERS.
My family isn’t propaganda. People of color aren’t a tool for companies to seem “woke.” Seeing more people of color in your media isn’t you being force-fed an agenda. It’s simply opening eyes to a world that is more diverse and full of color than the media has obviously made a point to show in the past considering how many people are taking notice of it. Understanding the privilege that it is to feel comfortable in a sea of white, not realizing that the media that surrounded us was mirroring us…. is a step forward. Every family of every race and ethnicity, interracial or not deserves to be seen in the details.
Every child should grow up in a world where they are equally represented. The world is colorful, it was meant to be, it’s more beautiful when you see that color for what it adds to the view. I don’t feel guilty for being white and the term white privilege was never meant to incite guilt…it was meant for situations like these. Situations where we didn’t ever have to know how it felt to wonder why you couldn’t ever see yourself in the world. I’m thankful for the lens that I’ve been able to view the world through so that I can make the corrections that I should have made years ago, but until you know better you can’t do better so here I am showing up in the best ways that I know how.
Have conversations about different families and their dynamics including race in your homes. Seeing diversity on the TV or in books provides an excellent opportunity for us to teach our children that families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and more. We have the chance to help our children grow up in a world where seeing more color doesn’t feel or seem weird or uncomfortable and I want to take advantage of every one of those chances that we get.