When you see a family with beaming smiles, it should hardly matter if they're white, black, Asian, Hispanic or a big mix of all of the above.
At least, that's what Michael David Murphy and Alyson West think. And when they saw the commercial that Cheerios recently aired portraying a white mother, a black father and a biracial child, they loved what they saw: a mixed-race family, much like their own, living everyday life.
YouTube had to later shut down comments on the video as they became increasingly racist in nature. Cheerios stood behind the ad, saying that "the positive comments outweighed the negative 10 to 1, but the small percentage of negative did not fit their family image."
Michael and Alyson had another idea. They launched their own blog, We Are the 15 Percent, based on a simple concept -- photographs of mixed-race families, which represents 15 percent of the U.S., according to the 2008 census. It quickly gained critical acclaim for its portrayal of joyful unions. HLN spoke to Alyson West about the blog, the spirit behind it and her own feelings on being in a mixed-race relationship.
HLN: How long has 'We Are the 15 Percent' been around?
Alyson: It's very new! It was inspired by the Cheerios ad, which was posted May 28. We started by asking friends to join in and send their photos. They told their friends, and the word got out. Within a few weeks, we had thousands of replies. The stories we get are absolutely amazing, and we are invigorated by every email. You can't help but smile when you look at those families and those faces.
HLN: Did you encounter opposition from family or friends when you and Michael got married?
Alyson: We did not. We were together for five years before we got married, and our families were very supportive. We are lucky. In my opinion, it's each family's responsibility to educate us about our history without passing along the weight of its baggage, regardless of what kind of racial background they come from.
HLN: Cheerios portrayed a mixed-race family in a very natural way in their commercial. What other companies do you think are as open-minded as they are?
Alyson: IKEA surely is, and Philadelphia cream cheese's commercials have shown mixed-race couples too. It's people doing typical things. We take for granted that the typical setting usually includes white people. By incorporating different races into those same settings, it shows it as normal -- which it is. This is the changing face of the American family.
HLN: In the last few days, there have been major strides in equal rights. Are we in an era of transformation?
Alyson: Yes. And it's because of the ease of sharing information, I think. There's more of a chance of these stories getting out there if secrets can't be kept. We're transforming, and we are finding community in places we haven't before -- places we didn't even have access to thirty years ago.
HLN: What's your advice for a mixed-race couple coming up against opposition to their union from family or friends?
Alyson: Know yourself and know your worth. You have to elevate the conversation of race with positivity. it's also a two-person deal -- you have to stand up for what you believe in together.
You can submit your own photos to the We Are the 15 Percent project by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.