In this day of “a change is gonna come,” businesses are finally starting to take ownership of the racial stereotypes of which some of them have been operating. It is now time to say goodbye to “Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben.”
Both images are derived from Southern racism. Aunt Jemima’s 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,” and Ben is a portrayal of the male house negro.
Quaker Oats has announced it’s retiring the more than 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and logo.
“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,” the Pepsi-owned company said in a statement provided to CNN Business.
Aunt Jemima’s appearance has evolved over time, from wearing a red and white bandana headscarf to the curls you see today. 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.’ Green was actually born into slavery.
CNN also reported Uncle Ben’s owner Mars said on Wednesday that “now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do,” adding that “we don’t yet know what the exact changes and timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities.”
According to the Uncle Ben’s website, the name was first used in 1946 in reference to a black farmer known as Uncle Ben who excelled in rice-growing. The man depicted in the logo is a “a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.”
However, the imagery evokes a servant and uses a title that reflects how white Southerners “once used ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.,'” according to a 2007 New York Times article.
They say you are what you eat. Are we finally tired of what they are “feeding” us?