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:
This woman got Quaker to nuke its Aunt Jemima brand. All it took was a single TikTok video for a multi-billion dollar company (PepsiCo) to erase one of its most well known products.
Tell me how TikTok and Twitter aren’t inordinately powerful. pic.twitter.com/HApQvFUw8y
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 17, 2020
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.”
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.
Photos courtesy of Getty.