After using the same name for 130 years, Quaker Oats has decided to retire their Aunt Jemima product after they were forced to acknowledge the racist roots of the brand name.
It is the newest addition to a growing list of brands companies that are dealing with the protests of a society that has grown hyper-sensitive towards racial issues, sparked by the death of George Floyd while he was under police custody.
In an interview with CNN Business, Quaker Oats explained that the company had to take an objective look at their own brands and products as they try to satisfy their customers and build a more inclusive society. The company is owned by Pepsi.
“Aunt Jemima” stems from the song “Old Aunt Jemima” that was allegedly first sung around by slaves while they were in the fields. Quaker Oats, in their official websites, say that the logo for the brand was first made in 1890. The supposed model, Nancy Green, had been born into slavery.
Mars, which owns the brand of Uncle Ben, said that they will look into changing their brand name for the same reasons. A spokesperson said that now is the time to evolve brands, with all options being on the table.
The call to retire or change the logo for Aunt Jemima is not a new one. For instance, Cornell Professor Riche Richardson wrote for the New York Times in 2015 that the logo is very much emblematic of the racist past of the South and called for a change.
In particular, Richardson took offense in the fact that the eponymous ‘aunt’ is a stereotypical portrayal of the “mammy” cliche. A A mammy refers to a loyal yet subservient maid who takes great care of the white master and his family while overlooking her own.
It is a momentous and rare change in the industry. Quaker Oats had purchased the Aunt Jemima brand almost 100 years ago in 1926, while Pepsi purchased Quaker Oats in 2001. Pepsi has not revealed a new brand for their syrups, which are scheduled to be disclosed this fall.
Quaker Oats announced that they will donate some $5 million to help contribute to the African American society while Pepsi announced a much larger $400 million plan.
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