Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Everybody.

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I have a confession to make. I didn’t get the flap about the Cheerios commercial at first, because I wasn’t looking at it. I had the TV on in the background, and unless you’re looking at the TV, that commercial sounds just like any other commercial.

When I did see it, though, I did a little fist-pumping. An interracial couple…no, it’s better than that. It’s a family. And they’re behaving just like any other family. How cool is that?

In a way, the Cheerios family reminds me of the Lovings, whose Supreme Court decision we celebrate today on the Loving Day Blog Hop. The Cheerios couple isn’t the first to turn up in American television advertising, just as the Lovings weren’t the first interracial couple to be married in the United States. Coffee Mate and Ikea both featured interracial couples before Cheerios. (I couldn’t find Kim and Adam, the interracial couple testing their new Ikea mattress, but here’s another ad for your viewing pleasure.) The Lovings were married very legally in Washington, D.C., before moving back to Virginia, where the trouble started. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in 24 states – but very legal in the other 26.

So what’s different with Cheerios? What’s different with the Lovings?

It’s the unwillingness to back down. It’s courage. It’s the steadfast belief that interracial couples are and ought to be just like all other couples.

Television advertising is notoriously gun shy about even the appearance of offense, and General Mills got an earful from racists when it unveiled its interracial couple. But the company refused to back down in the face of public pressure. “There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios celebrates them all,” Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said in USAToday.

When the Lovings pleaded guilty to being married interracially in Virginia, their prison sentence (and take a second here to really consider the fact that there was a prison sentence) was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return as a couple for the next 25 years. They moved to Washington, where they’d been married in the first place, and this story might have ended there. Mildred and Richard shunned publicity, and neither of them was trying to make a huge public stand when they challenged the Virginia law. All they wanted was to be able to visit Virginia – the place they both called home – as a married couple.

Guys, you’ve got to check this out on the Life magazine website – the Lovings were the cutest of couples.

The Lovings got what they asked for in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court found Virginia’s law, and all the nation’s remaining anti-miscegenation laws, unconstitutional. They returned to Virginia, where they spent the rest of their lives. Forty-six years after the decision, popular culture has covered a lot of ground. I can remember a time, not long ago at all, when interracial couples on television were few and far between. Their appearance often meant you were about to see a very special episode or that you were going to be treated to a lot of good-natured ribbing at the couple’s expense (remember George Jefferson and Tom Willis?). At one point this year, prime time network television was home to more interracial couples than I could keep up with. The writers, in the understanding that those relationships are not a pedagogical tool, are not focusing on the interracial component.

It’s the story, not the swirl. Put that way, I almost don’t mind missing the first season of Scandal. Almost.

We’ve made lots of headway. Interracial couples aren’t fighting for recognition in quite the same way today. Corporate America defends their identity as couples, just like other couples.

But there are still holdouts in the so-called real world. I myself have been seated near the kitchen door on dates with white boyfriends. Well-meaning friends have suggested that the course of true love would run more smoothly if I stuck to my own kind. People stare, although in fairness, I’ve been known to stare at an interracial couple just to see if they’re a couple.

Yeah, I’m not much better. You see, when I say “interracial couple,” I’m thinking of black people and white people. I shouldn’t ignore the rest of the world’s diversity, but I acknowledge that I’m guilty of doing so.

We’ve come a long way. We haven’t come nearly far enough. Still, the world’s changed a lot in my parents’ lifetime, and I see more change to come in mine. My hope is that my niece will grow up in a time of true marriage equality.

Let freedom smooch.

OMG! I screwed up and forgot to mention that Delaney Diamond has the next stop on the hop! Go see her — please!

**I join more than 30 other blogs today to celebrate Loving Day with the Loving Day Blog Hop! Check out the roster for other great stops on the hop (Koko Brown, Afton Locke, Vallory Vance, and my sister in swirl, Tracey Livesay, among others, join us today). And just to keep things interesting, I’m going to give away a copy of my book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, to some lucky commenter (relevant to my post, before midnight, Pacific Time, on 6/12/13) below! Happy swirling, my friends.

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16 comments

  1. Hi, Alexa – I’m old enough to remember when “swirled” couples/marriages were considered tabu, and I’m from New Jersey where there was no law to prevent couples from following their hearts. Still, even some in northern society looked on these couples with what I recall as pity, people saying things like, “It’s not fair to the children.” I’m awed and humbled by the Lovings’ courage and strength in an environment of such hatred. Thanks for sharing your insights into their story…and the commercials. (Ikea’s is my favorite!) No need to put me into the book drawing, BTW. I already have “Illicit Impulse,” and read it and loved it!

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    1. Lol. *I’m* old enough to remember when interracial dating was taboo. Here in the South, it wasn’t that long ago! In my experience, people blamed the parents. In some cases, one member of the prospective couple would indicate that being part of an interracial couple would devastate his own parents. In other cases, the person’s parents would say something like, “Well, her parents can’t be happy about it, either.”

      I like that Ikea ad myself, but I thought that little creamer shaped like the cow was cute!

      I’m so glad you liked my book! I hope to be done with the next one soon.

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  2. Loved this blog post, Alexa!! I wonder how the Lovings’ situation might have played out if Mildred were white and Richard black. Sadly, I think the outcome would not have been to their favor. I LOVE the Cheerio’s commercial. I’m off to find the Ikea commercial. Thank you for making my heart smile this morning. (And don’t put me in the drawing either. I just purchased Illicit Impulse. Can’t wait.)

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    1. One never knows of course — but the Lovings started a class action suit. Certainly the class wasn’t all bw/wm couples; I think that in order to maintain the class, the members of the class would have to be diverse from each other.

      I hate that I can’t find that other Ikea commercial (the one with the mattress). It’s too cute. But I do love the Mocha Milker ad, too.

      I sure hope you enjoy the book!

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  3. I lived in the South most my life mostly in NC and VA as my father was in the Army and seeing mixed families wasn’t something new to me and my mom taught us that love comes in many colors and you can be friends and marry whoever you want as long as they have a good heart. We moved to WI when i was in 7th grade, I was told by cousins and other family members I couldn’t be friends with so and so because they were mixed, indian, mexican, black so on and races shouldn’t mix and that pissed me off as that wasn’t what my mom had taught me… I came to learn there is more bigotry in small towns than big cities and it is sad, it was something that i hated about the town i lived it. I moved to the south in 2003 after I married my husband and felt like I was coming home. I think if more people were taught that love has no color life would be better. My husband and I both from that small bigotry town (we left after high school) teach our two blonde haired blue eyed boys 3&9 they can love whoever they want… My 9 year olds first girlfriend in kindergarten was mixed (her mom is on of my best friends and lives in TX), his best friend is a little black boy named David B (my son is David P), and we have friends of many different colors. This world is full of so many wonderful people that god made in so many different shades, so who are we to judge god’s work.

    j.m.platt83@gmail.com

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    1. Jeannie, you’ve got some awesome stories! There doesn’t seem to be any geographical rhyme or reason to these attitudes on race relations (or the lack thereof). But isn’t it nice to see things slowly changing through the experiences of children?

      So glad you came by! I always love to see new people around here.

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  4. That couple was such an inspiration and what an appropriate name ; )
    This is such a great idea for a giveaway hop! IR couples are beautiful and I honestly think they create the most beautiful babies!!
    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m gonna keep hopping along!

    mestith at gmail dot com

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    1. Meghan, I hope you enjoyed the hop and discovered lots of new authors! I just love that there are so many IR romances out there now, especially the historicals! Thanks so much for hopping by.

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  5. I thought the Cheerios commercial was too cute. There are more things in the world to be mad about. This is our world and those who live in it need to open their eyes. We are diverse country.

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  6. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the Lovings story and it’s awesome. Thanks for sharing! I grew up in the South and my parents used the term “colored,” but thankfully they weren’t hateful bigots. My highschool also had a large number of Jewish kids, since it was near a Synagog and, according to my Baptist preacher, they were all going to hell. I think that was the beginning of my questioning. I had lots of Jewish friends and I knew that I was no better than they were.
    Let’s hope that gay marriage is where interracial marriage is in a few years, too.

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    1. I’m so glad I was able to share the Lovings’ story with you! That’s one of my favorites in the realm of real-life romance. I firmly believe that the gay marriage cases are just like the Loving case. It’s just a matter of time before full marriage equality is the law of the land!

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