It has been three weeks since a controversial Cheerios ad featuring an interracial couple and their child sparked a backlash across social media – which was quickly countered by the support of countless fans who came to the defense of interracial families.
Among some of the ad’s most vocal backers are Alyson West and her husband Michael David Murphy, an interracial couple from Atlanta, Ga., who have created a website to show their support for the commercial and its intentions, called “We Are the 15 Percent.”
The couple, who are also parents to their 1-year-old biracial daughter Alexandra, created the site to build a platform that features photos of mixed race families and couples across the United States.
“We thought, instead of parsing through negative comments and making broad statements about race, why not just show America what we look like?” West told theGrio. “It was our offer of positive support for families like our own.”
Over 1,500 photos have been submitted since the site’s launch on June 5th – and West said that while some pictures are goofy and others are touching, they each represent the changing face of the American family.
“America is steeped in a complicated, often divisive, conversation about race. What we are saying with our site is that these families and couples have a place and they have a face,” she said.
The website’s title reflects data from the 2008 census which found that 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were interracial.
Yet despite studies that show the rate is twice as high as it was 30 years ago, Murphy wrote that it still feels rare to see something like the Cheerios ad represented in mainstream culture.
“As a child, I remember never seeing African-American families in picture frames in stores. It was something that always stood out to me,” West said. “Surely we were as photogenic as any other family. Through this site, we have read similar stories of families and children who simply want to see others who reflect their own version of normal. We all want to be part of a community.”
Harsh criticism and often-vicious hate speech followed once the original Cheerios’ ad was posted to YouTube, which forced the site to disable its comment section of the video.
West said, “This is a website about inclusion and support. It may be trite, but love prevails—and that’s true no matter what your skin looks like or what anyone writes on YouTube.”
Follow Lilly Workneh @Lilly_Works