Quaker Foods, the company behind the “Aunt Jemima” brand of syrup and other breakfast foods, says it will rename this line of products and discontinue its label’s image of a black woman “to make progress toward racial equality.”
Aunt Jemima has been featured on these products for 130 years.
NBC reported on the development:
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.
As an example of “consumers’ expectations,” NBC quoted Riché Richardson, an associate professor at Cornell University, who said Aunt Jemima is “a retrograde image of black womanhood on store shelves.”
“It’s an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation … Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype is premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness,” Richardson said.
“It is urgent to expunge our public spaces of a lot of these symbols that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse,” he declared.
“Quaker said the new packaging will begin to appear in the fall of 2020, and a new name for the foods will be announced at a later date,” NBC reported. “The company also announced it will donate at least $5 million over the next five years ‘to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.’”
The purge of Aunt Jemima comes as a wave of municipalities across the United States are removing historical monuments for similar complaints of racial insensitivity. Crowds of protesters have defaced or even destroyed statues of notable figures from the Civil War-era Confederate States of America, Founding Fathers, veterans, and even abolitionists. The current unrest was sparked by a string of racially-charged killings: Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota. As the Black Lives Matter movement organized protests across the nation, some of which descended into violent riots and looting, tensions flared again after Atlanta police shot and killed Rayshard Brooks.
Mere weeks before this unrest, another food brand removed a longstanding label icon over perceived racial insensitivity. Land O’Lakes announced in April it would remove the likeness of a Native American woman from its butter products after 92 years.
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