Breakfast behemoth Kellogg’s quickly responded to a tweet earlier this week after a customer noticed one of the dozens of anthropomorphized cartoon Corn Pops on the back of the box happened to be a little browner than the other typically yellow Corn Pops. And the brown one happened to be Janitor Corn Pop. We don’t know the exact ethnicity of the little guy. What we do know is that Corn Pops aren’t actually people. And Corn Pops don’t actually have jobs. And if we are to take seriously the skin color of cartoon Corn Pops, the rest of the Corn Pops have some serious jaundice.
Acknowledging that it was a “tiny thing,” the offended twitterer, Saladin Ahmed, was concerned that his child and “millions” of others would look at the back of the cereal box and begin their despicable journey toward white supremacy, or at least get the wrong idea. What Ahmed didn’t realize is that he unwittingly showed his own prejudice by tacitly suggesting that janitorial work — or perhaps manual labor in general — is somehow inferior or unimportant. Janitors should be more offended at Ahmed’s insinuation than anyone should be at Kellogg’s.
Now, if they had the one brown Corn Pop wearing a suicide vest or flashing gang signs, then the stereotype would truly be problematic. But doing hard, respectable, work? Nobody is saying that’s the only kind of work brown people do, or the work that the one brown person in a crowd will do, or should be kept from more “skilled” positions. Our propensity for creating racially oppressive bogeymen is astounding.
Are we in that Orwellian place where food packaging is now scrutinized for racial sensitivity compliance? I hope not. Instead, maybe we have moved so far ahead racially from America’s slavery past that we now have to manufacture our injustices from the cartoons printed on the back of a kids cereal box. I’m not actually naive enough to think our worst racial problems are this trivial, but the fact we have time to jaw about this might be a twisted sign of progress.
But I also believe there’s an inadvertent minimization and priority scrambling that happens when social justice crusaders nitpick over every tiny perceived racial slight. While I don’t agree in the least with Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest, I do think his cause may need some real attention, especially in some areas of the country. There’s a certain boy-who-cried-wolf element to incessant cries of racial injustice. The people complaining about a cereal box mural will likely complain about anything, so it’s hard to tell — at least from them — where the true injustices lie.
As for Kellogg’s, they did the only thing corporate folks know how to do in our social media world: try to not offend. If they didn’t respond to Ahmed as they did, they’d come off insensitive and unresponsive to a race issue. What’s ironic, is that Kellogg’s probably had someone in their marketing department aiming for ethnic inclusion, fearing some other cereal box crusader out there would find offense at anthropomorphized Corn Pop racial homogeneity, replete with yellow privilege. And when I start using terms like “anthropomorphized Corn Pop racial homogeneity” I realize it’s time to end the column and be grateful Corn Pops don’t have an apparent gender.
Do you want honesty and integrity on the Twin Falls City Council? Then we need to re-elect Greg Lanting. Greg's experience and knowledge extend to not only our history, but to the important contributions that Twin Falls makes to the Magic Valley as the hub of our community. He truly understands the issues that the city faces; his decisions are sound, carefully researched and in the city's best interest. His efforts and energy to draw Glanbia, Chobani, and Clif Bar to our community are to be admired. Let's keep the momentum going. Vote to re-elect Greg Lanting.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
In today’s fast paced news and social media environment, it’s difficult to sort through it all and determine what’s true, false or more importantly, what information was omitted. We are all victims of bad information. Our blind spots are often influenced by our beliefs, history, political value system, and media outlets that cater to our bias. Our beliefs may be validated and news accepted because it confirms what we believe or hope to be true. I expect that most of us, hearing that a particular story is “fake news,” will have an immediate reaction to accept or reject the declaration based upon our traditional information sources. In an information age that bombards us with “news” stories, I recommend following Mark Twain’s advice: Avoid embracing stories “that just ain’t so.” Or, As Paul Harvey would recommend, seek out the “the rest of the story.” Investigate other sources, especially sources outside your traditional comfort zone.
Our personal values and beliefs can be influenced by stories that validate what we want to be true. It often takes effort to fully understand the facts and discover all the facts. This includes political positions, proposals and legislative/executive actions. Having been an elected official at the city and legislative level, I am mystified by some of the news snippets found in social, print, and broadcast media. These sources rarely have the full story. They, too often, will select information that can grab a headline or support a position favored by the writer.
Let the consumer beware: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true. This adage also applies to political news. I am connected to Facebook and to a limited extent Twitter. I am amazed at the “fake news” that is passed along by all political persuasions. I find good people passing along information/stories that have no basis in fact, truly fake or satire news. The photos, videos and printed information look so authentic, but so much is just not new, in fact it is often “fake news.”
Recently, a citizen was outraged that the Idaho secretary of state would provide a presidential commission with the voter records of how she voted. If that were true, we all should be outraged. Here’s a fact: How you vote is not in any data base. Voter information on file with the county and secretary of state is limited to the voter’s, full name, address, age, gender, party affiliation and if they voted — not how they voted. This is public information and acquired by most every candidate and political party. When the secretary of state provided this public data to the Presidential Commission per their request, the Idaho Democratic Party was critical. But it’s the very same information provided to Democratic and Republican campaigns. The aforementioned citizen’s outrage was not based on fake news, but on incomplete, not fully factual information. What she knew for sure was, as Mark Twain warned, “just ain’t so.”
Political leaders need to be careful in their communications. The public relies on us to be honest and thorough. When we are anxious to have our opinions validated, we fall prey to critique by providing less than the whole story. What is actually reported can be further limited by media time and column inches. The facts sometimes get edited out. Journalists have the responsibility to present balanced news and facts, adjusting to limitations of time or space. They should save opinion for the Opinion Page, not the news.
Let’s all try to do a better job of getting the “rest of the story” before we jump to conclusions based upon facts that “just ain’t so.”
I urge you to vote for Greg Lanting for Seat 5 on the Twin Falls City Council. I have known him since junior high. I count him as a friend. He has a passion for serving the city he loves. He has served the city of Twin Falls, first on city Planning and Zoning for eight years, then for 12 years on the Twin Falls City Council. He provides a common-sense approach to every item brought before council. He is quick to answer citizen concerns, and his frugal nature has helped Twin Falls to have one of the lowest tax rates in the state. Please join me on Nov. 7 in voting Greg Lanting to another term on the Twin Falls City Council.
Sheriff Tom Carter