Kellogg's Apologizes For "Racist" Cartoon On A Corn Pops Box, Depicting The Only Brown Character As A Janitor
This week in “Sometimes the Internet Is Good and Helpful” news, Kellogg’s apologized for a “racist” cereal box cartoon after the design was called out on Twitter. Writer Saladin Ahmed tweeted images of the artwork on a Corn Pops box after he noticed something strange about the illustration. “Hey @KelloggsUS,” Ahmed tweeted alongside the images, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor?” Ahmed also stated that the artwork could be interpreted as “teaching kids racism.”
Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed's tweet later that day using the company’s official Twitter account. “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion,” Kellogg’s tweet reads. “We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”
Kellogg spokesperson Kris Charles issued an official statement to Bustle over email reiterating their mistake and confirming that an updated package design is in the works:
"Kellogg Company has respect for all people, and our commitment to diversity and inclusion has long been a top priority. We take feedback very seriously, and it was never our intention to offend anyone. We apologize sincerely. The package artwork has been updated and will begin to appear on store shelves soon as it flows through distribution.”
Ahmed, who was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel and currently writes for Marvel comics, expressed gratitude for Kellogg’s quick reply and their efforts to fix the imagery. “Genuinely appreciate the rapid response,” Ahmed tweeted back.
Other companies (and people and Presidents, for that matter) can take a cue from Kellogg’s apology. Often corporate apologizes are heavy on the “We are sorry that you were offended” and make little effort to imply that they’ll learn and change going forward. Kellogg’s both acknowledged the problem and emphasized clear steps that they’ll take to fix it.
“Today I used the computer in my pocket to get a cereal company to make their boxes less racist,” Ahmed tweeted. “What even is the 21st century?”
today I used the computer in my pocket to get a cereal company to make their boxes less racist what even is the 21st century— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) October 25, 2017
There were also some people on Twitter who disagreed that the illustration was racially insensitive because this is the internet so of course there were. Some tweeted that Corn Pops don’t have a race so how could the illustration be racist? True, but Corn Pops also don’t have jobs, wear clothes, know how to juggle, or have eyeballs (as far as I know), which were all also depicted in the illustration.
Choosing to anthropomorphize something that doesn’t have human things, like a job or an ethnicity, is quite literally saying, “This is how this thing would look, act, speak, etc. if it were a person.” It’s hard to look at the illustration and argue against the fact that 1) the janitor Corn Pop is a darker shade than the rest of the Corn Pops illustrated on the box and 2) that seems like it’s a conscious choice.
Ahmed tweeted that his exchange with Kellogg’s lead to a barrage of “slurs and threats” in his mentions. It is equals parts infuriating, unsurprising, and all-too telling that some view calling out racism as more offensive that racism itself.
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
Is there bigger, scarier, more blatant racism happening in our country right now? Unfortunately, yes. That doesn’t mean we should collectively be okay with letting small things slide. Ahmed acknowledged this in a tweet as well, writing: “Yes its [sic] a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”
Ahmed’s effort to combat racism on a small scale lead to Kellogg’s apology, the company’s commitment to changing the artwork, and encouraging evidence that little actions can, in fact, catalyze greater change.