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Thu04242014

Opinion

Politics gets its own Cheerios ad

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Earlier this year, Cheerios generated extensive media attention – and countless racist comments online – for becoming the first major American brand to feature a mixed-race family in a television advertisement. Now, an ad for a political campaign is poised to be just as groundbreaking, and potentially controversial.

This (past) weekend, television advertisements began airing starring the teenage son of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is white, his wife, Chirlane McCray, is black, and their son, Dante, sports a sizable Afro in the ad, in which he makes the case for why he believes his father is the best candidate for mayor.

While he touches upon a number of issues, including affordable housing, the ad's most powerful moment comes when he talks about his father's position on stop and frisk. The controversial practice has drawn extensive criticism from civil rights advocates who point to studies showing the NYPD disproportionately stops young, black and Latino men as proof that the practice is inherently discriminatory. The practice has been under renewed scrutiny now that the issue of racial profiling has sparked national conversation in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida and President Obama's acknowledgment of his own experiences with racial profiling.

Watching a young, black teenager discuss stop and frisk, it is impossible not to be reminded of all of the young, black men who face such issues every day, and hearing him give credit to his white father for being a leader on the issue may just turn the heads of some progressive voters, particularly progressive voters of color.

But what is also likely to turn voters' heads is the novelty of the ad.

As previously covered on The Root, while multiracial families are among the fastest growing demographic groups in the nation, they remain a rarity among political candidates. The most well-known interracial political couples are among those who served in appointed or nominated roles, such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni, who is white, and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who is white and whose wife, Janet Langhart, is black.

While still rare in the political sphere, families like the de Blasios represent the changing face of America, as evidenced by the immense popularity of the Cheerios ad. The de Blasios were so elated by the ad they emailed supporters to say, "As an interracial couple, we sometimes felt conspicuous – which was painful," Chirlane McCray wrote. "If you're in love with someone, you're in love with someone ... That's why the Cheerios ad is so refreshing."

It's likely the ad featuring their son will join the Cheerios ad as a major cultural turning point for mixed race families.

(Keli Goff is The Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.)

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