PepsiCo is finally changing the racist ‘Aunt Jemima’ brand image & name

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Like many people, the “Non-Racist Breakfast” Tik Tok appeared on my Twitter timeline this morning. I assumed someone I followed had liked it or retweeted it. I watched it and enjoyed the history lesson – I knew that “Aunt Jemima” (the brand name for a syrup & pancake mix) was based on a racist stereotype, but I didn’t know that a white man hired a former slave to “act” as Aunt Jemima to publicize his brand. Here’s the Tik Tok:

It’s a great use of Tik Tok. It’s a great use of Twitter. This was only made THIS week, and it only became widely-seen and discussed over the past 24 hours. And already, this Tik Tok did more than anything else. PepsiCo owns Quaker Oats, which owns the Aunt Jemima brand and they’ve decided to rename and rebrand:

Aunt Jemima, the syrup and pancake mix brand, will change its name and image amid an ongoing backlash, with its parent company Quaker Oats acknowledging that the brand’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype.” The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that have often been criticized as offensive. Even after going through several redesigns — pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989 — Aunt Jemima was still seen by many as a symbol of slavery.

On Wednesday, Quaker Oats, which is owned by PespiCo, said that it was taking “a hard look at our portfolio of brands” as it worked “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.” The packaging changes, which were first reported by NBC, will begin to appear toward the end of this year, with the name change coming soon after.

“While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.

The Aunt Jemima brand was inspired by a minstrel song called “Old Aunt Jemima” and was once described by Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African-American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, as “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.”

[From The NY Times]

We did it! In the year of our lord Beyonce 2020, we finally removed the last vestiges of glorifying slavery in modern branding. *puts finger to ear* Oh, I’m being told that Uncle Ben rice is still happening. And damn it, Mrs. Butterworth is still around too.

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71 Responses to “PepsiCo is finally changing the racist ‘Aunt Jemima’ brand image & name”

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  1. smee says:

    Uncle Ben’s Rice needs to be next…

    “Uncle” was a common appellation used in the Southern United States to refer to older male black slaves or servants.”

    • Mumbles says:

      Agreed. But is Mrs. Butterworth problematic? Back when it did commercials back in the day, she was portrayed by a chubby white old lady.

      • smee says:

        She was voiced by a Caucasian woman….she never made me want to pour it on my pancakes (I prefer real maple syrup)

      • Nlopez says:

        I remember the syrup bottle was a mammy figure when I was growing up. I always found it offensive.

      • salty says:

        i think because the Mrs Butterworth’s bottle is brown it’s assumed that it’s a person of color, but yeah….i’ve only seen a white woman portray her.

      • Chica1971 says:

        Yep..Uncle Ben’s

      • Candikat says:

        Agree about Uncle Ben but went “Wait, Mrs. Butterworth is black?” when I read this. I don’t know anything about the brand’s history, so maybe it’s problematic, but back in the 70s-80s she was definitely portrayed as a white-grandma type.

    • Nicole says:

      I was thinking this too.

    • Sona Zemkova says:

      mmmm, I can see this wording in this context to be offensive and referring to slavery but in my country in the old Europe, it is very common to call people aunt or uncle when you are talking to someone… it is meant in a very colloquial way and it refers to pepole outside of your family. we even go so far to say that s aunt neighbour etc…

  2. Noki says:

    In the year of our lord Beyonce 2020 LMAO

  3. ChellyPie says:

    People are seriously pressed on IG about this. They don’t understand why this would be changed, all they see is a pretty black lady. Same people who would see a mammie cookie jar on someone’s counter & see no issue

    • Mellie says:

      Or one of those statues that people still have in their front yard, of the little black boy, the jockey…so offensive.

    • SomeChick says:

      If they think it’s so unimportant, then why do they care so much about it?

    • Chica1971 says:

      If you look at the original versions of Aunt Jemima you can almost superimpose Hattie McDaniel from Gone with the Wind. Let’s no forget the second part of Aunt Jemima..” Ain’t she your mama”.. reinforcing the welfare queen stereotype

  4. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    Keep the changes coming! Amazing TikTok!

    • tiglilly says:

      Reminder that TikTok is a foreign corporation that builds its algorithms to increase views, like every American SM corporation. These are not platforms that don’t have an agenda regarding profitability.

      • SomeChick says:

        So? Twitter and FB are just as bad. All corporations are in business to make money. This is a great use of social media as a lever to make things better. She struck a chord and people amplified her voice. That is how it is supposed to work.

        Products glorifying slavery have no place. It all needs to go. That’s the main point here.

      • tiglilly says:

        yeah, we can ignore Facebook’s Peter Thiel and who is getting the $ behind SM activity and why these algorithms work they way they do, at least Aunt Jemima is gone

  5. Nlopez says:

    It’s about time. I dont know if Mrs Butterworth is still around but that and uncle bens need to be dumped too.

  6. NextToMe says:

    This was an excellent way for them to get out of their contract with aunt jemima’s family (who the constantly belittled and underpaid). Now they can not pay the family at all and wipe their hands if the decades of damage the put them through. Quaint.

    • Kkat says:

      I was thinking this too, great way to screw her family over and weasel out of the ongoing lawsuit against them

  7. Lisa says:

    Good.

  8. KellyRyan says:

    Are we having an American Revolution? Bring it on. Statues, ads, products. Pleased to see change is dominating our news cycle.

  9. TeamMeg says:

    What about Colonel Sanders? Has he been retired yet? Good riddance to all of them.

    P.S. The TikTok video was brilliant!

    • pottymouth pup says:

      is Col Sanders a racist trope?

      • Jezebel's Lacefront says:

        Yes. He is a remnant of the Old South. Let’s say the colonel would have an issue with little black kids going to school with his grandchildren.

  10. Teresa says:

    I mean good yay they’re changing it… But seriously PepsiCo you waited this long? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised after the white girl hands cop Pepsi and ends police brutality against minorities commercial.

  11. MellyMel says:

    Good! It’s about time! Though I will say I was amazed or shocked by the amount of ppl on Twitter who didn’t know the backstory of Aunt Jemima…it’s just so obvious. Same goes for Uncle Ben’s.

  12. grabbyhands says:

    Coming soon to a thread near you – white people whining about political correctness gone amuck and how changing Aunt Jemima syrup in any way has ruined their childhood memories.

  13. ME says:

    This is amazing and way over-due. Next, sports teams please get rid of your racist team names !

  14. Allie says:

    When I read the title of this post I immediately thought about Uncle Ben’s. It’s sold internationally and actually my favourite brand when it comes to pre-packaged rice but it really should not be marketed the way it is. What does the image of “Uncle Ben” look like in the US? Sometime in the past years it has been changed on the packaging in Germany to look less “slavery” and offensive and rather like a present day restaurant owner. Still, the term “Uncle” just sounds so wrong.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      they announced they’d retire that brand in response to the news about Aunt Jemima

  15. Mia says:

    I know folks are super salty about Gone With The Wind taken off streaming services. Even though articles have said it will return with a disclaimer. I mention if you must watch a slavery folk look at Mandingo or Drum. That hasn’t gone over well with some. 😂 😂

  16. MissMarierose says:

    You guys! The Onion just posted a parody predicting this very thing last Friday!

    https://www.theonion.com/quaker-oats-replaces-historically-racist-aunt-jemima-ma-1844015205

    • Betsy says:

      I like multi-faceted Sheila.

      I can’t believe it took until 2020 for this product update to happen.

  17. Sara says:

    “But if we destroy the racist maple syrup bottle, how will we learn from history??? We will be doomed to repeat it!!!” – Karens and Kevins

  18. Kriseth says:

    Change the name. Just don’t change the recipe!!!

  19. Valiantly Varnished says:

    It’s about damn time. Now let’s do Uncle Ben’s next.

  20. Chimney says:

    Glad black children don’t have to wake up to a racist caricature in the mornings! Though my mom always avoided this brand for that specific reason.

  21. JenE says:

    Glad this change is being made. I’ve watched grown-ass women lose their minds over the Land-o-Lakes butter packaging change. They finally removed the kneeling Native American woman from their products.

    • AMA1977 says:

      Land O’ Lakes is owned by right-wing nutjobs who had to be convinced by boycott not to support Steve King recently, so I will buy any other brand of butter instead. I also will not buy Uncle Ben’s rice at any price. I already buy pure maple syrup so Aunt Jemima was out anyway, but FFS. Why is it 2020 and people of color still have to be assaulted by racism everywhere they go, up to and including the grocery store?? Completely and utterly unacceptable and shameful.

  22. Whatever says:

    Let’s get rid of Chef Boyardee too!

    His accurate spelling is Boiardi!

    But Italians have had to literally change their names to accommodate lazy Americans who can’t be bothered to respect a person’s actual name.

    And the Screaming Sicilian line of frozen pizzas take hurtful discrimination and damaging stereotypes to a different level.

    • Marie says:

      Not sure if it’s the same thing since both of those brands were created by Italians and not by some stereotype perpetuated by Madison avenue. Chef Boiardi was a real person. He created the product and image — he used to appear in the old commercials and he elected to change the name. His family continues to be involved with the brand. – they have been making the TV circuit the past couple of months because sales have spiked due to the pandemic. Also, Screaming Sicilian is owned by a company founded by a Sicilian immigrant.

      • Whatever says:

        That’s like saying black actors who portray drug dealers and prostitutes and murderers are at fault for perpetuating black stereotypes because black actors are willing to appear in these very roles!

        Italians like Chef Boiardi and the Screaming Sicilian pizzas participate in these very stereotypes because they need to eat and feed their families and make a profit.

        Bojangles created his dance shows so therefore he is guilty for perpetuating the happy go lucky tap-dancing Black man?

        Italian-American actors star in gangster films And shows because that’s what Americans what to see and people need to support their families, even when it means to perpetuate off a discriminatory stereotype because they are not permitted to BE in another place!

        Don’t you think the Boiardi family would have preferred to be known as Boiardi and not Boyardee?

    • Marie says:

      I don’t think Mario Puzo or Francis Ford Coppola made the God Father trilogy to appease Americans … but If you really want to compare the plight of Italian-Americans to those of black people in America, then you do you.

      • Whatever says:

        Mr. Juanillo is Filipino.

        While he has suffered, he has not suffered at the same level of systemic discrimination as an African-American.

        Therefore, by your reasoning, his discrimination was discrimination-lite and not worthy of outcry?

        You do you too!!!!!!

    • AMA1977 says:

      Respectfully (and as someone with first-generation American-Italian grandparents) it is NOT the same. African slaves were brutalized in their home country, kidnapped, beaten, trafficked across the ocean in deathtrap ships, then dehumanized, forced to labor with threats of (and actual) violence, raped, beaten, killed, and denied basic human rights until very recently. Even when equality was assured under the law, the situation is so far from “equal” that it would be laughable were it not so devastating and shocking. Italian immigrants faced challenges and bigotry to be sure, and sterotyping exists to this day that is detrimental to the culture of Italian Americans. But that’s not even close to approaching the systemic racism, discrimination, and violence perpetuated on people of color. The experience of Black Americans should not be diminished by this kind of comparison. There is no comparison.

    • Betsy says:

      What ethnic group hasn’t had to change their names to accommodate Americans (or more specifically, the judges upon entrance)?

      • pottymouth pup says:

        honestly, my paternal grandfather’s name was Alexander and they changed it to Samuel (even with a thick “Russian” accent Alexander is pretty easy to understand)

        my maternal grandfather was told he spelled his last name wrong and was forced to change the spelling by changing the first letter from K to C (it’s K sound so I have no idea why the teacher thought the spelling needed to be changed)

    • Marie says:

      Exactly … I’m Hispanic. My parents came to the US as teenagers to get away from a dictatorship and seek a better life. Like Italians, it was a CHOICE. I get there are stereotypes that are perpetuated in our society, but I would not use this opportunity to compare those experiences to those of black Americans. When my father came here in 1960, he couldn’t believe there were segregated bathrooms. What?!?! As a minority, his experience was completely different.

      But, yes, stereotypes exist. Hispanics are often portrayed as gangsters, too. Our most famous one is Scarface, portrayed by the most famous Latino actor, Al Pacino! He also was great in Carlitos Way. What? An Italian-American taking a job of a brown person? What? Bitch please.

  23. Lawcatb says:

    Now if we can get them to stop using prison/slave labor too . . .

  24. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    This is such a long time coming! I could never have those ‘shaped’ bottles on my table. Honey bears are a different story, but the syrup? My God.

  25. Aimee says:

    I was speaking with a co-worker this morning about this and the fact that they changed the name of my daughters school yesterday because the person who it was named after started a race riot back in the 1880′s. I could tell as the conversation kept going where she stood but when she said “Ok, maybe slavery was bad…” that’s when I knew.

  26. ClaireB says:

    Thank you for posting that picture of the woman portraying Aunt Jemima. I was always aware that it was racist, but the “happy slave” look they’re making her her put on there really brought it home to me.

  27. LunaSF says:

    I can’t believe Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben brands are still around in 2020. I don’t buy those products but every once in a while I would walk by them and was reminded it was still ok to put them on a shelf and sell. I kind of wonder about Mrs. Butterworth as well but like others have mentioned she always seems white and less problematic (I recommend real maple syrup over corn syrup though). I kind of wonder is Quakers find then Quaker oatmeal brand offensive. I know there aren’t many quakers around and I do buy Quaker Oats in bulk.

  28. Kathgal says:

    Ok, but did you have to direct traffic to the twitter of Ian Miles Cheong? Could you not have posted a link to the Tic Toc from somewhere else? I don’t know, I am in Canada and am maybe reading this wrong, but I don’t get the feeling he thought this was a good thing. Am I reading this wrong? I am looking at his other posts…..Asking out of sincerity! I get the feeling he thinks the company is wrong for “caving in to pressure”…if I am wrong please tell me, because his twitter feed is confusing me.

  29. Nicole Butler says:

    The Cream of Wheat guy needs to go too.

  30. Bluenoser says:

    Mars, which owns the Uncle Ben’s rice brand, is changing the “brand identity”.

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/17/business/uncle-bens-rice-racist/index.html

  31. Wow2 says:

    They should reach out and offer her a position on whatever team is looking through their brands to make changes

  32. LidiaJara says:

    IDGAF about the label, can they transfer ownership of the brand to a black-owned company?

    White people don’t need to focus on doing better, they need to cede power.

  33. Chisom says:

    You all be taking this too far and I am black. Why not ban the color black while we are at it, stop body tan and quite drinking coke

  34. Amelie says:

    My family has never bought Aunt Jemima because we never really ate pancakes growing up (And if we did, my dad would make them from scratch), the logo was always background noise to me at the grocery store. It wasn’t until grad school when I became good friends with a POC that she clued me into the incredibly racist background of the brand. Good to see it finally being retired.

    If we can kick the Aunt Jemima branding to the curb, can we maybe finally get rid of the Washington Redskins team name and logo? The Chiefs? Hell, the day camp’s logo I attended growing up is a Native American chief wearing a headdress. It didn’t bother me as a kid but growing up I didn’t understand why, especially since the camp was founded by a white Jewish family. I even submitted an anonymous question when I went to work there as a counselor years later during orientation which was read out loud to staff “What is up with the Indian tribe names?” They thought the question was funny and everybody laughed… but I seriously wanted to know where the tradition came from! Didn’t get an answer.

  35. Ann says:

    Don’t put a man or a woman of any race on a product. In twenty years from now, there will be an uproar. What if the woman was wearing an APRON, or has lipstick on. If it’s ok now, it probably won’t be PC correct in 10 years. Better to play it safe.

  36. suzanne says:

    This is fantastic as I have been called Aunt Jemima when I lived in Alberta. Think about weaponizing syrup against someone and then say its no big deal. Also got called Oprah and it wasn’t because I was a successful business woman.

  37. c8h10n4o2 says:

    C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a movie that came out a few years back by Kevin Wilmott (Writer on BlackKklansman) that parodied these products to devastating effect. Funny and uncomfortable as hell.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      I’ve been recommending that movie since I saw it in 2004 ish. I remember thinking parts of it (the commercials) were just so far over the line and impossible to swallow but was very glad that I stuck it out and watched the whole thing. I think every white person (who isn’t a racist because those folks will not get it) should have to watch it. I even tweeted out to Amazon (you can see it there but have to pay)/Netflix/hulu earlier today asking them to make it available for free