JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

Hey, MSNBC, Republicans are people too

Updated: 2014-02-03T05:43:37Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

I admit it. I walk the liberal line on a lot of issues.

But don’t pour politics on my Cheerios.

Cheerios this week previewed its Super Bowl ad, a sequel to the beautiful and surprisingly controversial commercial that aired last May featuring a family that looked like mine: white mom, black dad, mixed daughter. The first time around, the racist backlash grew so strong that Cheerios had to close its YouTube comments. Since then, we’ve seen more mixed families in ads, and the new Cheerios commercial racked up more than 1 million views the first day with no signs of hate.

And then came MSNBC and the now notorious tweet:

“Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family,” read a tweet MSNBC posted on Wednesday.

The liberal network took a family commercial and used it as a tool to stereotype conservatives as racists. So disappointing.

It didn’t take long for the Republican National Committee to call for a boycott of staff members appearing on the the network. MSNBC sent out an apology tweet and deleted the offense. By Thursday, the employee had been fired. MSNBC President Phil Griffin apologized to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. But the damage had been done.

Too often we perpetuate the idea that Republicans are racist homophobes. It’s no different than saying Democrats are a bunch of hippies looking for handouts.

We need to put a cork in the foolery.

There are different shades to each party, says Katherine, a friend of a friend. As a liberal Republican in Shawnee, she defies assumptions people place on her party. And for the record, she likes the Cheerios commercial.

“We have to stop leaning on the stereotypes. People want to lump everyone who claims a party into one big pot, but that is not the way it is,” she says. “I don’t care who you marry. I don’t care whether your children have same-sex parents or are different colors. I am adopted. I believe people are people.

“I have two 10-month-old babies, and I want them to grow up not caring about where someone comes from or what they look like. We have so much to learn from each other, and we put up all of these barriers for no good reason.”

Tom Rambo, an Olathe Buddhist Democrat, knows where to place the blame:

“I think the biggest obstacle to compromise is Fox News and MSNBC,” he says. “They are the propaganda wings of the parties, and they keep the pot stirred up to get the ratings.”

Bijan Shemirani, a political science major at the University of Kansas, skips all of the drama by remaining nonpartisan.

“It’s not that it is hard for me to pick a party,” he says. “I am very aware of the core beliefs of all of the parties. Being from Chicago, I come from a very blue state. I come from a liberal family, but a lot of my friends in Kansas vote red. It doesn’t affect our friendships. I want justice for everyone. One man can’t build a whole house; you need a team. If people could come together on a social level, it will in turn bring Congress together, too.”

He’s onto something. MSNBC’s attack Wednesday could have turned into a social-media war. But Fox News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin started a hashtag: #MyRightwingBiracialFamily .

She shared a picture of her biracial children and invited fellow Republicans on Twitter to share pictures of their mixed families. The photos poured in by the thousands.

It became what Cheerios always intended: a celebration of family.

As you scroll through the pictures, it’s hard not to smile at all the love. The only thing that could make it better is if all families of all political beliefs joined in. Rather than reducing one another to votes on ballots, we have to get back to relating to each other as people.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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