As numerous tv shows and films are being pulled from streaming services amidst the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the acknowledgement of institutionalised racism, the spotlight has now turned to brands.
The latest such company to come under fire for casual racism is none other than cereal giant Kellogg’s, for its popular breakfast cereal Coco Pops.
Breakfast cereal favourite Kellogg’s Coco Pops is being accused of casual racism due to its packaging which depicts a monkey alongside the brown cereal.
The accusations come from former British MP Fiona Onasanya, who took to Twitter to point out the fact that Coco Pops – a brown-coloured cereal – depicted a monkey in its branding, whilst rice bubbles – a white-coloured cereal – bore “three white boys” on the packaging.
@KelloggsUK, as you are yet to reply to my email – Coco Pops and Rice Krispies have the same compòsition (except for the fact CP’s are brown and chocolate flavoured)… so I was wondering why Rice Krispies have three white boys representing the brand and Coco Pops have a monkey?
— Fiona Onasanya (@Fiona_Onasanya) June 15, 2020
The post has elicited a stack of responses, with the overwhelming verdict being that Onasanya has taken things too far:
You are such an amazing idiot. pic.twitter.com/VJPWV8trdJ
— Ministry of Truth (@BanTheBBC) June 15, 2020
What is wrong with a monkey? My 4 year old daughter loves monkeys. Can we not have monkeys on cereal boxes?
— Nikki Stix💥 (@NikkiStix55) June 15, 2020
They’re breakfast cereals. Only a current or ex-labour politician could make it about racism.
— Sue P 🦋🦊🇬🇧🥳 (@pixiesheena) June 15, 2020
I have no words. Coco Pops have always had a monkey on the box. Do monkeys lives not matter anymore?
— Louise (@Louise_katz) June 15, 2020
Some even pointed out that the monkey is depicted on white Coco Pops as well:
The monkey does standard coco pops and white chocolate ones. pic.twitter.com/vuLr0nKkC6
— abx-labs (@abxlabs) June 15, 2020
Kellogg’s has since responded, describing to the Daily Mail UK: “The monkey mascot that appears on both white and milk chocolate Coco Pops, was created in the 1980s to highlight the playful personality of the brand.”
“As part of our ambition to bring fun to the breakfast table, we have a range of characters that we show on our cereal boxes, including tigers, giraffes, crocodiles, elves and a narwhal,” they continued. “We do not tolerate discrimination and believe that people of all races, genders, backgrounds, sexual orientation, religions, capabilities and beliefs should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Meanwhile back on Australia shores, Coon Cheese is facing similar heat after comedian Josh Thomas posted a Tweet questioning the brand name, as the word “coon” doubles as a racial slur towards Indigenous people.
Hey Australia – are we still chill with this? pic.twitter.com/3pY2wyZ3IY
— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) June 14, 2020
I’m indigenous and absolutely hate that word. No matter how many meanings it has, teenagers used it with venom in high school.
— cynda (@CysThoughts) June 14, 2020
Internationally famous racist cheese.
I couldn’t believe this was even real when I migrated here..
— D.R. MacDonald (@PirateKiwi74) June 14, 2020
Some users agreed with Thomas, however, others were quick to point out that Coon was the surname of the man who created the cheese, Edward William Coon.
Whilst it can be difficult to navigate such issues, Indigenous Australian rapper Briggs offered a poignant response earlier this week, pointing out how cancel culture can sometimes distract from the real matter at hand. Briggs’ comments came as he weighed in on the cancelling of Chris Lilley shows from Netflix, describing that he did not think the move was a “teachable moment”.
“It’s hard to gauge what an appropriate response is in this climate. It feels like everything is pretty heightened,” Briggs described.
“Honestly I think there’s more to gain in creating more content rather than deleting old stuff. I feel a better response is to show commitment to Indigenous creators.”
Amen to that.