When I opened a link to an article about this ad in my Facebook feed, I had a strong reaction. Total shock followed by incomprehension. Not because of the ad itself, but because there was such a venomous backlash against it.
So much anger. Because of a picture of a happy family whose skin colors and hair textures are not the same.
I had the same reaction when Barb*, a member of my (overwhelmingly white) writers’ group, asked me why I chose an Asian-American protagonist for my new erotic romance novel, Dance with Me.
Put on the spot, I got defensive, justifying my choice. I’ve lived internationally in multi-cultural communities for most of my adult life. I have lots of friends of mixed-race backgrounds. A lot of them are in interracial relationships. My brother is mixed-race.
What I should have done was paraphrase Justin Trudeau.
When Canada’s Prime Minister was asked why fully half of his newly selected cabinet were women, he replied, “Because it’s 2015.”
The truth is, it never occurred to me that the main character of my novel shouldn’t be Asian-American. Or that she shouldn’t fall in love with someone who wasn’t.
When I sat down at my laptop to write about an ambitious young reporter falling for her subject, a troubled but charismatic Ukrainian ballet dancer, both characters popped, fully-formed, into my head. But Sherry Wilson-Wong was ultra-clear. Singaporean mother, Wasp father. Former medical student. Lover of venti lattes and the Ramones. Killer cook.
I wasn’t trying to provoke or rally or target a demographic by playing the diversity card. I was just writing the world as I see it.
Because it’s 2016.
Why did Old Navy make an ad featuring an interracial family?
Because mixed-race families make up a growing percentage of the North American population. Because they have money to spent and might prefer to spend it in stores that recognize that. Because they read beautiful, hip, progressive and cool.
But mostly, because it’s 2016.
*not her real name