It’s incredibly depressing to think that, in 2017, we still have to fight to get racist references dropped from labels of popular products.
Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal box comes with an illustration depicting little yellow corn pop characters hanging out at a shopping mall. So, when novelist Saladin Ahmed noticed that the only non-yellow corn pop in the scene was a brown-skinned janitor, he had to do something about it.
On Twitter, Ahmed tagged Kellogg’s and asked the company: “why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor?”
The character, which is seen in a blue uniform cleaning the floors, is the only one with a darker complexion, prompting several online users to call the company racist over the illustration.
I care. Because the fact that the one and only dark character is the janitor is implying that only minorities are janitors— Stephanie Bourgeois (@bougie22) October 26, 2017
Ahmed explained that the small but concerning detail may be “a tiny thing,” but millions of children nationwide are also seeing this.
yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) October 24, 2017
Within five hours after the tweet went live, Kellogg’s responded.
Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.— Kellogg's (@KelloggsUS) October 24, 2017
In a tweet, the company said that it takes its commitment to diversity and inclusion seriously and that Corn Pops labels are being updated and should be in stores everywhere in the near future.
In a separate statement, the company said that the illustration was never meant to offend anybody and that they are sincerely sorry for what happened.
On Twitter, the incident ballooned into a political debate.
What’s wrong? Is being a janitor a bad thing? Or is it that the dark pop is the only one wearing clothes and with a job? ??— Laura MdH (@TribuD5) October 25, 2017
Most sensible people won't have an opinion about it BECAUSE IT'S A BOX OF CEREAL!— Rett Boaz (@BrowncoatBoaz) October 25, 2017
One could say more harm done. Think of the MAJORITY of white kids & adults that never equated a janitor to a BROWN person.— Steph (@greenlight79go) October 25, 2017
It's propaganda that lurks is the subconscious. If ur white, stay out of it. Ud have 2 b a critical thinker 2 understand the issue.— Shug's minion (@lover_squirrel) October 26, 2017
Despite the company's quick response and willingness to act so promptly, we must wonder how long this image has been used on this particular brand of cereal and why the firm was not aware of this issue until a consumer brought it up. Is racism such a huge part of people’s lives that they simply ignore it when they see it?
Perhaps, the fact nobody at Kellogg’s ever noticed the problem might answer that question.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni