The surest way to shatter your sunny view of American culture is to spend some time swimming in the cesspool of YouTube comments. So when a typically sentimental Cheerios commercial featured a white mom and a black dad, it wasn’t surprising that a flood of ugly, racist drivel followed.
"It was disheartening, but predictable," Michael David Murphy and his wife Alyson West told me in an email. But Murphy and West knew, or at least hoped, that the Internet could be harnessed for good as well as for evil. They started a Tumblr.
It’s called "We Are the 15 Percent", named after the 15% of new marriages, including Murphy and West’s own, that are interracial. The site posts photographs, submitted by readers, of their interracial families.
Which is, of course, the point: to remind everyone that the family in the Cheerios ad is typical. Murphy and West say the most touching responses to this message have been from kids growing up in interracial households. "They write and tell us how the site makes them feel they’re part of a wider community—that they’re not so different after all. We hope that, when she’s old enough, our own daughter might appreciate the site in the same way."
While the Cheerios ad and its backlash are already being forgotten, Murphy and West say they are committed to keeping the website going: "As the number of photographs grows (well over 2,000 submissions now) it feels like we’re stewards of an active, living photographic archive of the new American family, one of real significance."