In what can only be described as a “stunning and brave” move, CNN reports that Quaker Oates is changing the Aunt Jemima brand name, after realizing its based off of racial stereotypes.
New York (CNN Business)Quaker Oats is retiring the more than 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and logo, acknowledging its origins are based on a racial stereotype.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” the Pepsi-owned company said in a statement provided to CNN Business.
Aunt Jemima’s appearance has evolved over time. The brand’s origin and logo is based off the song “Old Aunt Jemima” from a minstrel show performer and reportedly sung by slaves. The company’s website said the logo started in 1890 and was based on Nancy Green, a “storyteller, cook and missionary worker.” However, the website fails to mention Green was born into slavery.
The news was first reported by NBC News.
After a nationwide reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd in police custody, some companies are making changes.
American history professor Gregory D. Smithers at Virginia Commonwealth University had this to say about the racist roots of several marketing companies via The New York Times.
The Aunt Jemima brand has its roots in a 19th-century blackface minstrel song, “Old Aunt Jemima,” that expressed nostalgia for the South in the slavery era. The character “is commodified racism,” one of “many racialized caricatures” that were “the creation of the white imagination” during the rise of the marketing industry, said Gregory D. Smithers, an American history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Marketing companies used racism to sell everything from soap, children’s board games and food,” said Mr. Smithers, who wrote a book about the use of racist imagery in popular media. “So ubiquitous did racism become in marketing and popular culture that it naturalized oppression in American society and shaped white privilege in the twentieth century and beyond.
”But now, he said, corporate executives “are doing their projections and the calculations don’t look pretty.”
“We’re in a moment where the rejection of systemic racism is so broad-based — cutting across racial, ethnic, religious, and political lines — that ignoring the politics of the moment would be ethically callous and economically foolish,” he added.
Folowing suit, Virginia-Based company Mars is planning to "evolve" its own brand of Uncle Ben's rice.
Let's just hope that Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth don't go too far with their re-branding. We'd hate to see these beloved characters become "white-washed."