Quaker Oats released a statement saying that the Aunt Jemima brand will change its logo because it’s ‘based on a racial stereotype'. After 131 years, the Aunt Jemima name and image will be taken off of the syrup bottles and pancake mix packages Quaker Oats revealed. Uncle Ben’s Rice also announced that they would be changing their logo from the racist imagery that they have used for the past 46 years.
The announcement was made Wednesday morning after ongoing criticism for its continued use of a grinning black woman. Due to the recent protest all across America many citizens have called out businesses, their board of directors, and % of black employees in the top 10% of their companies. Facts were presented to show that the Aunt Jemima brand company is based on racist roots. Parent company Mars Inc. announced Wednesday that it would “evolve” the brand away from the iconic photo of an African-American man bearing the epithet reserved for black people in the mid-20th century to avoid calling them “Mr.”
“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," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release. “We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today.”
“As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices,” the company said in a statement. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and to the voices of our associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”
The brand was initially based off a song by a minstrel show performer called “Old Aunt Jemima.” According to the company’s website, the character was “brought to life” by Nancy Green, a formerly enslaved black woman. While Uncle Ben's has a quite different history. Their name and logo was inspired by two black men, a Texas farmer named Ben who was known for growing high-quality rice, and the face on the box, “a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown. Neither men worked for the company however the owner Texas food broker Gordon L. Harwell used the name of a the well known farmer Ben and added Uncle to the front instead of a racial slur of the time Mr. He was was looking for a way to mass market his own type of rice after supplying the armed forces during World War II. The image we all know as Uncle Ben is actually from a portrait that Harwell saw of the restaurant's maitre d’hotel, Frank Brown, and decided that image could be used to sell his brand as "Uncle Ben's Converted Rice." Harwell launched Uncle Ben's in 1943 with Brown's face and the Houston rice farmer's name.
She became the face of the breakfast product line in 1890. Aunt Jemima has since lost her kerchief as well as other stereotypical and racist symbols. She added that the company plans to donate at least $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.” But like most in the black community, $5 million is a tax write-off.
"Racism has no place in society," the statement continues. "We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our Associates and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us— individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world." stated spokesperson for Uncle Ben.
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. We will see what happens when the changes are made. But what about having a black member on the board of directors or hiring someone black who is qualified in a top level position for your brand?