Aunt Jemima Has Been Canceled

A brand dating back to 1889 is being retired.

While hardly the biggest news of the day, the renaming of an iconic breakfast staple will surely be the longest-remembered.

NBC News (“Aunt Jemima brand to change name, remove image that Quaker says is ‘based on a racial stereotype‘”):

The Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will get a new name and image, Quaker Oats announced Wednesday, saying the company recognizes that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
The 130-year-old brand features a Black woman named Aunt Jemima, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character.

The picture has changed over time, and in recent years Quaker removed the “mammy” kerchief from the character to blunt growing criticism that the brand perpetuated a racist stereotype that dated to the days of slavery. But Quaker, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, said removing the image and name is part of an effort by the company “to make progress toward racial equality.”

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release. “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.”

Kroepfl said the company has worked to “update” the brand to be “appropriate and respectful” but it realized the changes were insufficient.

Aunt Jemima has faced renewed criticism recently amid protests across the nation and around the world sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

People on social media called out the brand for continuing to use the image and discussed its racist history, with the topic trending on Twitter.

It’s frankly shocking that the brand has survived this long. Attempts to modernize the face of the brand were never going to be enough to overcome the obvious stereotyping and origins of the product name itself.

While the name of a pancake syrup seems a trivial focus in the midst of national protests over police officers killing unarmed black men so often that we can’t remember all of the names, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has capitalized on the opportunity to focus on all manner of outdated symbols, including statues and monuments to Confederate leaders.

From a sheer marketing standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to think of a bigger branding switch. Datsun’s slow transformation into Nissan comes to mind, as does the various spinoffs associated with the (relatively short-lived*) breakup of the Bell telephone monopoly.

It’ll take a careful effort to inform Aunt Jemima loyalists of the new name and packaging in a way that doesn’t further the damage associated with the old iconography. Offhand, leaning into the rationale for the change would seem the best approach.

And, yes, Uncle Ben (no relation) is next.

______________

*Parent company AT&T would eventually be bought out by one of the spin-off Baby Bells, the former Southwestern Bell (SBC), which would reclaim the AT&T brand and then proceed to buy up many of the other Baby Bells—all in the span of 22 years. Verizon owns a couple of the other Baby Bells, so the reconstitution is not complete.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    As you say, I’m astonished that the brand has lasted till now, given the mammy iconography. I claim no virtue for myself, but the image on the bottle always bothered me, even when I was a child. And when I got old enough to do my own grocery shopping, I never bought Aunt Jemima. Nor Uncle Ben’s.

    6
  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    As a native Vermonter I can tell y’all that you should be using REAL FUQING MAPLE SYRUP anyway.
    JFC…

    29
  3. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: They haven’t used the mammy iconography for decades. And given that the modern icon is of a Betty Crocker type character but black, you could make the argument that this is a net loss, with so few blacks represented on general market products, rendering the ethical decision a little tricky. Nonetheless, this is straightforward business decision. Is the association with a negative stereotype (Aunt Jemima is a literal insult) worth the residual brand loyalty? If they had been thinking they would have pulled a Datsun: go from Aunt Jemima’s Syrup to Aunt Jemima’s Country Kitchen Syrup and gradually increased the prominence of Country Kitchen and reduced the Aunt Jemima’s until it disappeared.

    4
  4. MarkedMan says:

    And can I request the next legacy to go by the wayside? Can we send “Gone With The Wind” down the same sewer pipe as “Song of the South” went? My god, that movie is offensive. I’m pretty sure when I saw it for the first and only time it was the first time it appeared on TV. I was a teen or a pre-teen and my sisters were so excited I decided to see what the deal was, and was just appalled. All I wanted was for the slaves to rise up and kill every single plantation owner and soldier, as they well deserved, and put the torch to the buildings. I walked out, and came in only once more when a deeply offensive stereotype of a maid was squawking “But I don’ know nuffin’ bout birthin’ babies!” I’ve never watched a minute of it since.

    11
  5. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    True, but what you see as a kid sticks with you. And the Aunt Jemima name…just as black men were derisively called “uncle,” so were black women called “aunt” or “auntie.” Thus even without the image the name had bad associations.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    You got that right.

    2
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: They did a theatrical re-release, must have been late 70’s. Went to see it. Thought we were going to get thrown out. People kept giving us dirty looks for laughing out loud in the wrong places.

    1
  7. Mister Bluster says:

    Verizon owns a couple of the other Baby Bells, so the reconstitution is not complete.

    Verizon Communications was created by the merger of Bell Atlantic (itself a post divestiture conglomeration of New Jersey Bell, Bell of Pennsylvania, Diamond State Telephone, and C&P Telephone,..all former AT+T holding companies) and GTE (General Telephone Company) whose 13 telephone operating companies were never owned by the original AT+T.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: I’m sympathetic to changing times. It would be hard to teach Huckleberry Finn to teenagers now, but in its time was a best selling slap in the face of racist attitudes. The black characters in “Uncle Tom” read as pathetic and one dimensional, but it spurred tens of thousands into the Abolitionist movement. “Ivanhoe” reads as horribly anti-Semitic now, but was considered radically progressive for its time. Ditto “Merchant of Venice” (well, maybe it holds up better than Ivanhoe).

    But “Gone With The Wind” was screechingly racist when it was written, when it was filmed and every moment since.

    4
  9. Teve says:

    I know black people who refuse to buy that brand because of the mammy shit. Look up some of the old ads. Holy moly.

    2
  10. Monala says:
  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Having been brought up taught to stretch every grocery dollar as far as I can, I have to note that I have never used Aunt Jemima mix or syrup. One time, I did buy a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s because it was on ad and I had a pretty steep discount coupon, but mostly I’m a house brands type of guy. Used to use Uncle Ben’s rice, but mostly because it is the only parboiled rice that I’ve found on the market and I don’t care for sticky long grain rice. (Since coming back from Korea, I only eat short grain, and no, Calrose rice is NOT as good as Asian rice is.)

    I’m more likely to eat pancakes or waffles at a restaurant than at home no matter what, so as customers go, I won’t be saving the market. Syrup flavor? Call me a heretic, but I prefer brown sugar flavor to maple and with that being the case, maple (real or imitation) is simply too spendy for me.

    ETA: Never saw GWTW, but because I have fond memories of seeing excerpts of it on Walt Disney Presents, I would be interested in seeing Song of the South once again to see what it is from my adult perspective.

    1
  12. Mister Bluster says:

    In my lifetime I have known very few white citizens who have changed from virulent bigot to active anti-racist.
    When I was in college 50+ years ago one of the Student Government activities I participated in was called Serve the People. We would go into grocery stores and other retail outlets and record comparative prices of items students might buy and print them in the school newspaper. Got thrown out of a local Rexall Drugstore by the owner. He tried to sue the paper when that story hit.
    Myself and a student who had been a professional exterminator ran a free service to treat the homes of students and low income residents for cockroaches. Paid for with Student Government funds.
    The most rewarding thing we did was to expose some local landlords for the true honkies that they were. Two black students would answer “House for rent” ads and without exception be told that the place was just rented that morning and the ad needed to be pulled from the paper.
    Then ten minutes later Rich Wallace and I would approach the same landlord about the same rental and we would be shown the place and given a rental rate.
    When we would ask them why they just told the two black students the place was already rented we got different reactions but they all came down to “I don’t rent to ni99ers.”
    We reported these low lifes to the city.
    Rich Wallace was one of the those true converts I mentioned earlier. He told me his history of active racism and how he came to know how wrong headed he had been.
    He participated in the local Civil Rights movement.
    This was in the late ’60s.
    His awakening earned him the nickname “George”.

    8
  13. R. Dave says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Fellow Vermonter here to second that! When I was living out in So Cal for a while about 15 years ago, it used to drive me nuts that even really good breakfast restaurants not only didn’t have real maple syrup, but the wait staff often didn’t even know there was such a thing. Got to the point that I’d bring my own bottle rather than desecrate my pancakes with that corn syrup abomination.

    3
  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: That was bordering on downright mean spirited. I liked it! (And I think they managed to get in all the cultural touchstones–I don’t like the word “tropes” and don’t fully understand it anyway. But I am concerned that it is still okay for a modern young person to be served by others if she feels it inappropriate to “serve the pancakes herself.”)

    1
  15. R. Dave says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: ETA: Never saw GWTW, but because I have fond memories of seeing excerpts of it on Walt Disney Presents, I would be interested in seeing Song of the South once again to see what it is from my adult perspective.

    Ditto.

  16. Monala says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I think the joke is that Quaker Oats is trying so hard to move in the other direction from the Aunt Jemima stereotype, that they want to assure people that their new mascot, “Sheila,” doesn’t even serve her own pancakes!

    1
  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: Yeah. That’s a different read than the one that I heard in my head while reading the piece. Tone plays a role.

    1
  18. Mu Yixiao says:

    @CSK:

    just as black men were derisively called “uncle,” so were black women called “aunt” or “auntie.”

    In Chinese culture, the terms “Uncle” and “Auntie” are terms of respect for an elder. In most of the US, they refer to a close friend of a young child’s parents. With the exception of “Uncle Tom”, does anyone actually think of “Uncle” or “Aunt” as derisive terms.

    1
  19. CSK says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I’ve seen/read it used that way in reference to African Americans. I’m aware that it is quite different in Chinese culture.

    1
  20. An Interested Party says:

    With the exception of “Uncle Tom”, does anyone actually think of “Uncle” or “Aunt” as derisive terms.

    Not everyone

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Before I was into medical devices, I did a 15 year stint in packaging identification systems (too boring to explain) and spent a lot of time in all kinds of plants including food and beverage production. My advice to anyone is if the major brand is too expensive, just buy less of it. Most certainly don’t drink Sam’s Club soda or RC Cola. Don’t even let it into your house lest the packaging contain cockroaches or their eggs.

    1
  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Used to use Uncle Ben’s rice, but mostly because it is the only parboiled rice that I’ve found on the market

    There’s no Minute Rice where you live? Or is that a different product?

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I would be interested in seeing Song of the South once again to see what it is from my adult perspective.

    I remember it well enough from when I saw it at age 9 or so to know that the live-action segments would probably make me puke today. But I want to be able to watch the animated Uncle Remus segments over and over and over. “Fry me if ya wanna, Br’er Fox — but doan trow me in dat dere briar patch…”

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    In Chinese culture, the terms “Uncle” and “Auntie” are terms of respect for an elder.

    At least in Shanghai, Ayi is also the mode of address for any female clerk or housemaid, and I can see that becoming insulting in no time, especially since with the second generation of the one-child policy, none of young’uns have a real aunt.

    When I lived in Shanghai, I was warned repeatedly that the common word there for “young woman”, used to call a young waitress or a female store clerk, essentially meant “prostitute” in Beijing. I’m struggling to remember that word, and Pleco is no help. “Xiao Jia”?

    1
  25. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: My very, very faint memories has good impressions of Uncle Remus as the nice man who told stories to kids. And I’m fine with living the rest of my life with that impression.

  26. Pete S says:

    Checking in from Ontario here, supporting real maple syrup. There used to be a brand here called “Old Time” that used to boast 15 percent real maple syrup, it was marginally better than table syrup. But really if you cannot use real maple syrup fruit syrup is a better choice.

    1
  27. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    And the Aunt Jemima name…just as black men were derisively called “uncle,” so were black women called “aunt” or “auntie.” Thus even without the image the name had bad associations.

    Well, If you were to have a house ni%%er in the antebellum south, then they will be around your children. “Aunt” and “Uncle” were bestowed titles of trust for those “honored” to serve the family.

    The company that owned the brand at the time hired a woman named Nancy Green to model for the box. She was a former slave. And her smiling image was used to evoke a really common racist caricature of Black women known as the “mammy” stereotype. The Jim Crow Museum describes it as the idea that Black women were “contented, even happy as slaves.” It’s obviously incredibly offensive. And you saw the same caricature in “Gone with the Wind” and lots of other films.

    And even the name of the brand itself — Aunt Jemima — comes from a minstrel show. During minstrel shows, white people performed in blackface and tried to make a joke out of Black people.

    (Source: https://www.marketplace.org/2020/06/17/quaker-pepsi-aunt-jemima-brand-racist-stereotype/)

    We grew up with it, and didn’t give it another thought, because we are Americans and we are racists. Even if we try our best not to be, our culture has made it impossible. Have you looked at a box of Cream of Wheat?

    This is long overdue.

  28. Liberal Capitalist says:
  29. Pylon says:

    Happy they’re removing the image and name. But as a Canadian I say they really should quit saying it’s syrup, too.

    1
  30. rachel says:

    Good. Now let them cancel the product itself because it is disgusting.

    If I can’t get real maple syrup, I’ll dissolve dark brown sugar in some hot water and maybe add a little vanilla instead.

    Or maybe I’ll just use butter.

    1
  31. @Liberal Capitalist:

    We grew up with it, and didn’t give it another thought, because we are Americans and we are racists. Even if we try our best not to be, our culture has made it impossible. Have you looked at a box of Cream of Wheat?

    This is long overdue.

    Exactly. It permeates in ways we don’t want to admit (or at least haven’t always realized).

    2
  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: Minute rice is precooked and dehydrated, if you will (I suspect that’s not quite accurate) rice. Parboiled rice involves a method of removing the bran from the rice that make it not necessary to wash the rice before cooking it. Long grain rice loses a significant measure of the nutritional value from washing (don’t know why or even if, but that’s what the claim is) so washing before cooking is not recommended.

    Short grain rice is frequently washed before cooking (most rice millers recommend it, and some rice is coated with talc for shipping [???] and must be washed), but many mothers save the washing water to use in soup or jjigae so that whatever food value is in the washed away starch is not lost (wintertime famine being a real thing in the Korean past, and not just the NK thing it is now). Some people say you can use it to make makgeolli, but I don’t know anything about Korean home brewing. 😉

    ETA: My memories are far more fragmentary than yours, sadly, so I have curiosity that would benefit from being scratched a little. Things being how they are, I suspect it will go unexplored and that’s okay, too. My monumental sense of white privilege allows me to see the loss of artifacts of our culture–however demented, painful, destructive, and hateful they may be–as losses that should be avoided whenever possible, but I realize many disagree and I defer to their greater wisdom or sensitivity. On the other hand, no, I have no problem whatsoever with tearing down statues of Confederate “heroes.” We have plenty of historic record of traitors to our country without enshrining their memory in public places. Evidence of prejudice and unconscious–or even conscious–bigotry, on the other hand, may be valuable to remind us of who we have been and why we try not to be that anymore, but I’m not buying a dog so I can join that fight.

  33. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m sympathetic to changing times. It would be hard to teach Huckleberry Finn to teenagers now, but in its time was a best selling slap in the face of racist attitudes.

    It’s one of the first great American novels, and the ideas in it hold up today. It’s worth putting in the effort to put it into context.

    Or go with the robotic edition. https://www.dianianddevine.com/huck

    All references to Robot Jim’s race and humanity have been removed. Given that “robot” is the Czech word for “worker,” and it entered our language through the Karel Capek’s play “Rossum’s Universal Robots” where the capitalists were constructing a slave race… I think this could work quite well.

    The illustrations have N-Word Jim replaced with a robot, as we would expect.

  34. Jax says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    “It permeates in ways we don’t want to admit (or at least haven’t always realized).”

    This is really important. It’s been percolating in my head for years, now, watching the cycle. It’s good that we’re scratching at that scab. It hurts, and it’s pissing (white) people off, making them feel defensive for not realizing all the things that we’ve grown up with our whole lives that we never even gave another thought about or why it suddenly offends people.

    Actual change is hard. We’ll get there, or we’ll die trying.

    1
  35. MStory says:

    “Parent company AT&T would eventually be bought out by one of the spin-off Baby Bells, the former BellSouth, which would reclaim the AT&T brand”

    I believe it was Southwestern Bell (SBC) that purchased AT&T – not BellSouth.

  36. James Joyner says:

    @MStory: Ah, yes, that’s right. I thought SBC was the renamed BellSouth.

  37. @Mu Yixiao:

    does anyone actually think of “Uncle” or “Aunt” as derisive terms.

    As with most things, context is the issue.

    3
  38. @Jax:

    It hurts, and it’s pissing (white) people off, making them feel defensive for not realizing all the things that we’ve grown up with our whole lives that we never even gave another thought about or why it suddenly offends people.

    I will be 52 next month and I have only recently started to really see the way in which 19th-century minstrely still permeates our culture. Aunt Jemima is part of that culture (although yes, updated from what the character looked like when I was a kid). Just last week I looked up the full lyrics of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (this is because some UT football players have called for doing away with “The Eyes of Texas” which uses the same tune). The 1894 version of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” is insanely racist (it would appear the Wikipedia page has been edited to remove them since last week).

    It has made me realize that a lot of songs we learned as kids (like “Old Susana”) where directly from minstrel shows.

    2
  39. SC_Birdflyte says:

    I grew up in the Deep South during the civil rights era and blush when I remember some things I participated in as a kid (the usual excuse “I was young and stupid”). I haven’t seen Song of the South in over sixty years, but there is one bit of context needed: Uncle Remus was a figure of wisdom and his stories were intended to teach children about human behavior, using animal figures as stand-ins.

    1
  40. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    You’re probably thinking of “ji nv” (chicken woman). That’s a prostitute. “xiao nv ren” (little female person) can mean concubine.

  41. Tyrell says:

    What about Chef Boy Ardee? Wendys – girls with red hair? Betty Crocker? Cream of Wheat? Ronald McDonald? Colonel Sanders? Old Grandad bourbon?Bojangles (Bo the cajun guy)?That King guy of Burger King? Elsie the cow? Orville Redenbacher? Peter Pan peanut butter? Three Musketeers? Baby Ruth? I can literally go down every shopping aisle and find dozens more. Many are in our kitchen. People could find any of those offensive. And that is just food.

  42. @Tyrell: This is a classic example of not getting it.

    4
  43. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Cream of Wheat is actually reappraising their package design, since it features an AA male chef as the logo.

    2
  44. Tyrell says:

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I don’t get why they picked out that one example.
    But Colonel Sanders? The very image of a plantation owner? That seems to be more improper, considering what he sells.
    Sanders did not start KFC until he was retired, in his 60s. He went all over trying to sell his recipe to different restaurants. There was also a different way of cooking it. Kentucky was chosen as a name because it sounded better. At one time KFC had more locations than McDonalds. On Sundays the line was out the door. For years Sanders would travel and drop in the stores unexpectedly, helping out and chatting with the workers and customers. In the local KFC there are pictures of the times he went there. He loved the business. I don’t go there much any more. Their potato wedges are the best.
    The big example of this sort of thing is the Washington Redskins football team. But people could fond something offensive about many team names. Now they have a coach who will have them in a Super Bowl in three years, if Snyder leaves him alone.
    “Fight for old D. C.! ” The most famous and popular sports song.
    Coach George Allen: a legend.

    1
  45. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Meta-not getting it, I think

    2
  46. Mu Yixiao says:

    @CSK:

    Cream of Wheat is actually reappraising their package design, since it features an AA male chef as the logo.

    Seriously?!

    I can understand Aunt Jemimah. She may have been updated, but there’s an unfavorable history to the character. But… What’s wrong with a black chef?

    I was, earlier, going to joke about how this would end up with “removing all black characters from products”–only to get a backlash in a couple months because there were no black characters on products. I thought the satire would come across wrong, so I didn’t.

    But… “real life imitates the Onion”.

    Addressing the incredibly disproportionate impact of law enforcement on black people? It’s about damn time (libertarians have been pushing for this for decades).

    Removing Confederate statues from government property? Yep–but I’d rather it be done via government order by skilled workers with cranes rather than idiots who drop the statues on top of themselves.

    Reviewing then revising or removing iconography (such as advertising characters) that have significant issues? Okay. But I’d like to see the decisions based on “reasonable reaction” not “most sensitive to offense”.

    Removing a character just because he’s black? That’s not only overly sensitive, it’s in opposition to the goal.

    I seriously hope you’re joking and I’m just over-reacting because it’s wine-bar night.

  47. Tim says:

    @R. Dave:

    it used to drive me nuts that even really good breakfast restaurants not only didn’t have real maple syrup, but the wait staff often didn’t even know there was such a thing. Got to the point that I’d bring my own bottle rather than desecrate my pancakes with that corn syrup abomination.

    Back when I was a civilian advisor with SFOR in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the base there had a coffee shop/restaurant that was run by a European equivalent of the USO. They had great pancakes and Belgian waffles and a great variety of other breakfast dishes. What they didn’t have was Maple Syrup, not even that “corn syrup abomination.” The only syrups they had were the Dutch varieties of fruit flavored “stroop”. Luckily, I was normally based out of Stuttgart and my wife was able to go to the base commissary and pick up a dozen bottles of REAL Vermont Maple Syrup and send them down on one of the daily military flights, courtesy of an Air Force pilot friend of ours. We kept our stash with the office coffee bar and would hand carry a bottle over when we went to breakfast. We would let some of the European troops try some and, it became so popular that we fixed up a supply route back to the Stuttgart Commissary to supply the cafe with American Maple Syrup. THEY, however, got Log Cabin brand and we held onto our REAL stuff.

    1
  48. grumpy realist says:

    I’m against getting rid of GWTW simply because it’s had such an effect on U.S. culture and is such an icon of Hollywood cinematography. Getting rid of movies or literature simply because they don’t measure up to the present bar of what is politically correct seems to me akin to the Soviet habit of erasing dead cosmonauts from photos and from history because of never wanting to admit to failures. Best to read/watch the originals with a grain of salt and to dissect the unspoken messages they were sending the audience.

  49. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As with most things, context is the issue.

    I understand. That’s why I asked the question. And I’m asking it honestly.

    I’ve lived in 4 states (two of them firmly in the south), spent at least a week in 20 more, and spent at least a day in 39. With the exception of “Uncle Tom”–which is an insult used by black people–I have never heard “uncle” or “aunt” used in a derogatory way.

    That being said, there’s a whole lot more of the country I haven’t experienced. So I’m asking: Are the terms “Aunt” and/or “Uncle” commonly used in the US in a derogatory manner? If so, is there a racial connotation directed at black people?

  50. @Mu Yixiao:

    Are the terms “Aunt” and/or “Uncle” commonly used in the US in a derogatory manner? If so, is there a racial connotation directed at black people?

    In the past, the terms were used basically for servants. Aunt Jemima was a traditional “mammy” character (basically a black nanny/maid). You see a similar depiction in Gone with the Wind and really any number of films.

    I am not an expert on this, but I would very much recommend looking into the history of minstrel shows, from whence a lot of these characters and stereotypes emerged (and that were highly racists).

    Fundamentally, we are only now coming to terms with 19th popular culture, which is remarkable if you think about it.

    See, for example, this story from Adweek:

    Little information about the chef is available from the brand itself. In a blog post, however, Kirsten Delegard, co-director of the Mapping Prejudice Project at the University of Minnesota, said Cream of Wheat’s founder designed the packaging with a former slave he called “Rastus” after characters in the Uncle Remus books, which were first published in 1880.

    According to a December 2000 essay by David Pilgrim, professor of sociology at Ferris State University, Cream of Wheat founder Emery Mapes, a former printer, found the image of a Black chef among his old printing blocks. This logo was used until the 1920s, when Mapes paid a Chicago waiter $5 to pose as the new chef.

    One hundred years later, this image remains as arguably the most enduring example of the Uncle Tom stereotype in marketing. In his essay, Pilgrim writes that the caricature was born in defense of slavery: “How could slavery be wrong, argued its proponents, if black servants, males (Toms) and females (Mammies), were contented and loyal?”

    Think about the way in which these characters are portrayed as happy servants to their white betters.

  51. @Mu Yixiao:

    but there’s an unfavorable history to the character.

    I think you will find that a lot of this imagery has an unfavorable history.

    1
  52. @Mu Yixiao:

    Removing a character just because he’s black?

    That is not what is going on.

    Think of it this way: why would a black person be used as a logo as a cook or maid in the late 19th/early 20th century?

    2
  53. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I have a some time to reply in more detail.

    At least in Shanghai, Ayi is also the mode of address for any female clerk or housemaid, and I can see that becoming insulting in no time, especially since with the second generation of the one-child policy, none of young’uns have a real aunt.

    I lived in Suzhou county (by our terms) for 6 years. I never heard anyone use ayi in a derogatory way. I heard a few laowai use it a bit dismissively, but all the Chinese I know used it as a friendly term. The ayi was considered a respected part of the company.

    Additionally, the old grandmothers that would gather in the residential blocks for (what we call) “stitch and bitch” (hanging out, knitting, and gossiping) were commonly referred to as “ayi”.

    I’ve only heard “aunt” to mean “old woman”. A young woman who cleaned the office would not be an ayi.

    I’ve only heard “uncle” to mean “older man” or “sugar daddy”.

    When I lived in Shanghai, I was warned repeatedly that the common word there for “young woman”, used to call a young waitress or a female store clerk, essentially meant “prostitute” in Beijing. I’m struggling to remember that word, and Pleco is no help. “Xiao Jia”?

    I’m confused by this one. “Young woman” is “xiao nv”. It’s also “honorable daughter” or “miss”. I’ve never heard anyone use that term to refer to a waitress or store clerk. They’re called “fu wu yuan”. While “xiao nv” may have a connotation of “concubine” or “mistress” (but not “prostitute”), my understanding is that such an interpretation very much depended on context–much like “niece” in old Europe (“I would like a room for myself and my ‘niece’. One bed will be enough.”)

  54. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Think of it this way: why would a black person be used as a logo as a cook or maid in the late 19th/early 20th century?

    Uncle Ben has been portrayed in marketing as the CEO of the company.

    The un-named Chef on the Cream of Wheat box is shown as a chef–a highly respected profession. Going back to his depictions in the early 20th century, he’s shown as a chef. He’s wearing a toque blanch (a sign of skill and respect–and the height of his places him in high regard), and the double-breasted, white coat (a sign of “power or influence”),

    A quick google search shows images of the Cream of Wheat Chef from the turn of the 20th century garbed and portrayed as a skilled and respected chef.

    If this had been a white chef, what would your reaction be? Explain why it’s different because he’s black.

  55. de stijl says:

    @R. Dave:

    Wisconsin and Michigan also have great maple syrup.

    Vermont syrup is very good. Others do a very good job, too.

    It’s latitude and general climate and flora.

    It ain’t akin to Parmigiano-Reggiano, ffs.

  56. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    If we only had a functional FDA.

  57. DrDaveT says:

    @Tim:

    We kept our stash with the office coffee bar and would hand carry a bottle over when we went to breakfast. We would let some of the European troops try some and, it became so popular that we fixed up a supply route back to the Stuttgart Commissary to supply the cafe with American Maple Syrup.

    I attended a somewhat surreal Smithsonian Resident Associates event a couple of years ago, in which representatives of a Vermont Maple Syrup consortium presented a tasting of various grades of syrup, and explained the recently totally revamped nomenclature, and… yeah.

    One of the things they moaned about quite a bit was how hard it was to break into the European market. There just isn’t any noticeable demand for sweet tree sap reduction over there, and their best marketing notions to date haven’t helped.

  58. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    Do not play GTA games. Do not listen to the “Freckle Bitches” radio ads. You will be nonplussed.

  59. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m against getting rid of GWTW simply because it’s had such an effect on U.S. culture and is such an icon of Hollywood cinematography.

    I understand the impulse, but… would you say the same about Birth of a Nation?

  60. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The UK has probably the biggest market for maple syrup and it relatively small. One would think France because of Canada, but very small demand.

    Especially for the real stuff. Mostly it it is corn syrup with maple flavoring akin to Mrs. Butterworth.

    The EU does not desire maple syrup, root beer, or many other NA regional specialities beyond specialty shops and refined tastes.

    Streaky bacon, aka American style bacon is a growing market.

  61. de stijl says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Survey black folks you know and ask them about how they feel about and respond to Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima as brand representations.

    1
  62. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To tie into what is happening now, Black Americans, if not compliant and subservient and grateful, are viewed as uppity and in need a beat down to remind them of their place.

    Jim Crow did not end. It was absorbed into neighborhood norms.

    1
  63. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    GWTW can be easily contextualized. It’s a romance set against turbulence.

    The film makers were too dim and shortsighted to realize the offence.

    I’ve watched Leni Riefenstahl. Triumph Of The Will is remarkably notable as a visual construct of ritualized fascism.

    Framing and pacing. It is extraordinary and abhorrent.

    Contextually, that film then and there could have been perceived as ordnung, stability, strength.

    GWTW is a romantic drama with house slaves as subservient, grateful, and compliant.

  64. @Mu Yixiao: I would note that you are not addressing arguments and evidence that I am providing. You are, instead, simply repeating your claims in a way that suggests you are not asking me to actually provide an explanation, but instead you are just hammering your point in a way that is avoiding what I am saying. You are certainly free to reject what I provide, but when you simply ignore it, you are not actually engaging in the conversation.

    I fear you really don’t want to understand my claims and those of others. (And note I say “understand my claims” not accept or agree with them).

    But, let me try one more time.

    The notion, for example, that portraying a black man as a chef in the late 1800s/early 1900s is one of respect is ahistorical. Yes, chefs are respected now, but the notion that portraying black American as kitchen staff was a sign of respect is to simply ignore the realities of minsterlsy and then Jim Crow.

    And in regards to Uncle Ben’s, note that the Wikiepedia article that I suspect you are consulting about his “CEO” status states that “In March 2007, Uncle Ben’s image was “promoted” to the “chairman of the board” by a new advertising campaign.”

    Now, why in 2007? Do you honestly think he was on the board back in 1946 when the symbol was first deployed? The article notes that the image was “said to have been based on a Chicago maître d’hôtel named Frank Brown.”

    And an honest question: did you know that Uncle Ben was now Chairman of the Board, because I did not.

    Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Cream of Wheat chef were all servants (promotions and reimaging notwithstanding). And they are all happy to serve their white bosses. That is the legacy.

    Tell me the prominent black representation in advertising that dates from that era that doesn’t project that servant image.

    Note that the post Civil War context for blacks was that they should “know their place.” That attitude persisted into the late 20th century and, sadly, I think it persists in the minds of some still. I hate to say it, but older members of my own family have said such things. In many ways, the way the police deal with black suspects is linked to this attitude. The men who killed Ahmaud Arbery had that attitude.

    And I would point to my podcast recommendation post, which includes a link to a really useful website at UCF on the history of minsterly.

    Look, I recognize that I am not going to change your mind, but I would just ask that you look into what I am talking about and give it some thought.

    1
  65. @Mu Yixiao: Look, if Uncle Ben was invented in 2007 or the Cream of Wheat Chef was created at the turn of the 20th Century we wouldn’t be having this conversation. That is why I said “context matters” above.

    The context of which I speak is the origins of these symbols. They are directly linked to the historical realities I noted in several of my comments.

    We can’t pretend that the past only started in our lifetimes.

    1
  66. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Tell me the prominent black representation in advertising that dates from that era that doesn’t project that servant image.

    Or worse, such as the origins and history of “Sambos.” (THE LAST REMAINING SAMBO’S FINALLY ERASES ITS NAME):

    The restaurant’s name was a portmanteau of its founders’ names—Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett, who started the concept in 1957. But it is also a racist caricature of black people, frequently employed as a defense for slavery and segregation.

    […]

    During its most successful years in the mid-to-late 1970s, Sambo’s played up its name and its connection to the racist and controversial children’s book “The Story of Little Black Sambo.” The restaurants original mascot was a dark-skinned South Indian boy, like the book’s main character. (It eventually switched to a tiger mascot.) Locations were decorated in murals inspired by the tale. The menu included dishes named after other figures in the book.

  67. WBB says:

    @Tyrell: …you forgot one – Cracker Jack…

    https://babylonbee.com/news/cracker-jacks-changes-name-to-more-politically-correct-caucasian-jacks

    https://babylonbee.com/news/activists-fight-racism-by-making-sure-pop-culture-depicts-only-white-people

    They should just cancel all the nasty, fake artificially flavored syrup while they’re at it anyway ~ it’s offensive to REAL maple syrup… not to mention our health and wellness…

    And yet, meanwhile, countless rap songs and artists continue to exist that condone and promote far worse than any of this – demeaning/degrading to women, promoting crime, violence, murder, drive-by shootings, serial killing, rape, disorderly conduct, disregarding law enforcement, vandalism, theft, driving under the influence, drug dealing, discrimination (homophobia, misogyny, racism), profanity, promiscuity, sex addiction, street gangs, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, materialism and narcissism…