Novelist raises question of racism over cereal box

The Corn Pops cereal box's yellow characters (right) with only a brown one (above).
The Corn Pops cereal box's yellow characters with only a brown one (above).PHOTO: SALADIN AHMED/TWITTER

WASHINGTON • The design spoilt his day right at breakfast.

Saladin Ahmed is a commentator on cultural diversity, whether speaking about mainstream publishing trends or the culinary arts.

Combine that with the fact that he is the father of young children and it is not surprising he was the one to call out United States food company Kellogg's on its packaging design of a cereal box.

Ahmed, a Hugo Award-nominated novelist, tweeted last Tuesday the Michigan snack maker's Corn Pops box was laced with racism.

On the back of the box, all the Corn Pops characters were yellow except for one brown figure, who is the floor-sweeping janitor.

Apparently, even in fictional breakfast universes, the visual message seems to be: Diversity is limited and the lone brown character is cast in the blue-collar job.

The Corn Pops cereal box's yellow characters (right) with only a brown one (above).
The Corn Pops cereal box's yellow characters (above) with only a brown one. PHOTO: SALADIN AHMED/TWITTER

"Yes, it's a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring over this breakfast, (you) realise millions of other kids are doing the same," tweeted Ahmed, a Michigan native who was raised in a working-class Arab-American community.

He has said in interviews his family was involved in Detroit arts and that his father co-founded the Arab Community Center For Economic And Social Services in nearby Dearborn.

"This is teaching kids racism," tweeted Ahmed, who writes for Marvel Comics' Black Bolt, working with artist Christian Ward.

Kellogg's promptly apologised, saying it "did not intend to offend" and declaring its commitment to inclusion. The company also vowed on Twitter to update its Corn Pops box which it promises "will be in stores soon".

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Novelist raises question of racism over cereal box'. Print Edition | Subscribe