First they came for Aunt Jemima. And I did not speak out — because I don’t care. It’s pancake syrup. Correction: They came for the Land O’ Lakes maiden first, then Aunt Jemima. Uncle Ben’s days must be numbered too.
We have all the makings here for a terrible political cartoon set on the “Isle of Political Correctness” where discarded ex-mascots based on racial stereotypes forlornly welcome new arrivals. “You too, Ben?” says a plaintive Frito Bandito.
Trump should demand that Quaker Oats not only keep the image of Aunt Jemima on the package but restore the “mammy” kerchief that the character used to wear before it was modernized. (“Tradition!”) If he’s going to fight a culture war to protect Confederate names on U.S. military bases, he might as well fight on all fronts.
“While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Quaker Oats’ head of marketing today in a statement, recognizing that their choices at the present moment were either to drop the mascot “voluntarily” or eventually be forced to do so under pressure. The history here isn’t great:
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.
Richardson said the Aunt Jemima logo is based on a “‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.” A statue of a slave mammy stereotype was approved by the US Senate in 1923, but it was never built.
The company also ran racist ads for several decades, with actresses personifying the mammy stereotype. It evolved the logo over the years, and even hired singer Gladys Knight as a spokeswoman in the 1990s.
The Aunt Jemima brand will donate $5 million towards “engagement” with the black community in addition to finding a new logo. The Onion has a suggestion:
— The Onion (@TheOnion) June 17, 2020
Not to be outdone, ConAgra foods announced today that Mrs. Butterworth is actually a trans woman born with male genitalia. Pronouns: She/her/hers.
No, just kidding about that. It’d be foolish to announce such a thing right now, when the country is distracted by the news about Aunt Jemima and the revelation that SpongeBob Squarepants is gay. The American imagination has only so much capacity to track the sexual and cultural identities of fictional characters day to day.
Speaking of problematic mascots, when is Quaker Oats going to do something about their general brand mascot, “Larry” the Quaker? He’s extremely caucasio-normative. But he also looks trans so maybe he’s safe.
Quaker Oats announced that the image of Aunt Jemima will be removed from all packaging and the brand’s name will be changed. @SheinelleJones reports on the move that comes amid rapid cultural change in the country. pic.twitter.com/76a3hC64rM
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 17, 2020