Novelist Saladin Ahmed was looking at the back of a Corn Pops cereal box when he noticed a small but jarring detail.
The colorful illustration on the box depicted a chaotic scene of little yellow corn pop characters frolicking through a shopping mall.
But in the middle of the drawing, Ahmed spotted a lone non-yellow corn pop. The character looked as if it had brown skin. It also happened to be the only corn pop in all blue, and appeared to be waxing or scrubbing the mall’s floors.
On Wednesday morning, Ahmed tweeted to Kellogg’s: Why is ‘‘literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor?’’
It’s ‘‘a tiny thing,’’ he added, ‘‘but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same. . .’’
Within five hours, Kellogg’s responded. The artwork has been updated and will be in stores soon, the company tweeted.
‘‘Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion,’’ the tweet read. ‘‘We did not intend to offend - we apologize.’’
Ahmed responded: ‘‘genuinely appreciate the rapid response.’’
In a statement to USA Today, the company said it respects all people.
‘‘We take feedback very seriously, and it was never our intention to offend anyone,’’ spokesman Kris Charles told USA Today. ‘‘We apologize sincerely.’’
The Corn Pops debacle drew outrage of all sorts on Twitter - some of it directed at the cereal company, and some directed at Ahmed. Corn Pops, like seemingly everything else these days, began a political debate.
‘‘We are living in a time where people are accusing cereal of being racist,’’ one tweet read.
‘‘My son woke up in the middle of the night, and asked me ‘will the corn pops be okay?’’’ read another. ‘‘I didn’t have an answer.’’
Ahmed’s tweets prompted all sorts of other Corn Pops-related questions and controversies. Do Corn Pops have a race? some asked. One person suggested the character was simply wearing a hat. ‘‘It’s casting a shadow on his face, giving the appearance of a darker complexion,’’ the tweet read. ‘‘Sensitive much?’’
Some people debated whether Corn Pops have a gender. If so, why are there seemingly no female characters on the box? Should customers also be upset that the illustration seems to encourage jumping in mall fountains, surfing down escalators and walking on massive stilts made of spoons?
‘‘Why is it that the dark Pop is the only figure in the picture with a nose?’’ asked another.
‘‘What’s wrong? Is being a janitor a bad thing? Or is it that the dark pop is the only one wearing clothes and with a job?’’
At one point, Ahmed stayed away from his Twitter mentions, he said, to avoid the flood of comments. Ahmed, a science fiction and fantasy writer and poet, is currently writing Marvel Comic’s Black Bolt series. He is also the author of the 2012 fantasy novel ‘‘Throne of the Crescent Moon.’’
On Wednesday night, Ahmed tweeted: ‘‘today in tiny victories’’ and ‘‘I used the computer in my pocket to get a cereal company to make their boxes less racist.’’