Human Rights

Aunt Jemima Has a New Name and Surprise, Surprise, Conservatives are Unhappy About It

Last June the company that produces Aunt Jemima began the gradual process of changing the iconic brand’s name after people realized the name had become a racist stereotype. They knew it was time to remove that name and change it to Pearl Milling Company, per NBCNews.

In a statement Tuesday, PepsiCo, owner of the Quaker Oats brand discussed the history behind the new name.

“Though new to store shelves Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become Aunt Jemima,” the company said.

People will start seeing the new logo on store shelves sometime this summer. While Aunt Jemima’s smiling image may seem innocent enough, let me tell you this: Its’ beginning was shockingly racist, at least by today’s standards. In an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Reader, Alicestyne Turley writes that Aunt Jemima was originally a character from an 1850s minstrel show. The character was portrayed by a white man in blackface (something that too many white idiots still do today.)

Turley notes:

“An extremely popular art form, white minstrelsy performed in blackface became the major way by which white audiences were introduced to a perceived notion of ‘black’ life and culture. The ‘Aunt Jemima’ minstrel character was meant to reflect the archetypical southern ‘Mammy’ every white American household needed and desired and as such has remained one of the most enduring 19th century caricatures embraced by modern society as an authentic black representation.”

So yeah, it’s time for Aunt Jemima to go.

While the image was updated over time to make it less racially charged and Quaker removed the “Mammy” bandana after criticism emerged that it perpetuated a racist stereotype attached to the days of slavery (because yes, it actually did) the company said it was time “to make progress toward racial equality.”

What Aunt Jemima and “Uncle Ben” (another racist stereotype) really show us is that something which seems harmless can actually be the opposite. I have grown up with these images and rarely gave them a great deal of thought, but what they really do is minimize the struggle, pain, and bloodshed of others who were tormented because one uncomfortable part of human nature is that we like to “own” other humans. We’ve done it all throughout history, all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and even further back than that. It’s an ugly part of human history that continues even today.

So it’s good that Quaker is doing this, and Uncle Ben will soon be “Ben’s Original” and the iconic image will also be dropped. Progress can be snail slow, but it is indeed a positive change.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we must also take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”

The rebranded Pearl Milling Company also noted in a statement that it workshopped the new name with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject matter experts, and diverse agency partners” and the rebranding was “developed with inclusivity in mind.” The company also plans to make a $1 million “commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women.”

But it seems that every happy ending includes a little rain, and as expected, conservatives are whining about this on Twitter. Apparently, they’re comfortable with demeaning and racist stereotypes.

meet the author

Megan has lived in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida and she currently lives in Central America. Living in these places has informed her writing on politics, science, and history. She is currently owned by 15 cats and 3 dogs and regularly owns Trump supporters when she has the opportunity. She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GaiaLibra and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/politicalsaurus

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