Corporate Pandering Means Invisibility

Today’s dumbest news comes from corporate America. First, Quaker Oats announced that it is doing away with Aunt Jemima.

Quaker Oats is retiring the more than 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and logo, acknowledging its origins are based on a racial stereotype.

“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.

So, how did Aunt Jemima fail to “reflect [the] values” of Pepsico/Quaker Oats? She is a totally normal, positive image that happens to be black:

How in the world is that image “based on a racial stereotype?” Is it a stereotype that African-American women know how to make good pancakes? I don’t know; but if so, why is this bad? Pasta manufacturers use images of Italian women. Is that somehow racist?

I don’t know whether Quaker Oats has decided to go out of the pancake business. Maybe the racial palaver is just a cover for deep-sixing a brand that no longer makes money. But if the company stays in the pancake business, how will they replace Aunt Jemima? With an African-American demonstrator or arsonist? I assume not. This positive, friendly image of a black woman, which has been on grocery shelves for more than a century, will just disappear.

With Aunt Jemima gone, could Uncle Ben be far behind? Sadly, no. Parent company Mars, Inc.–like Pepsico, a vast international conglomerate–announced today that the Uncle Ben’s rice brand will “evolve” to get rid of Uncle Ben. Mars’s statement is a classic of corporate pandering:

Racism has no place in society. 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.

So Uncle Ben is racist and getting rid of him is part of the “collective effort from all of us” to “fight for social justice.” Why, exactly, is Uncle Ben “racist?”

This is a dignified, positive image. At the link, a little background:

The name “Uncle Ben’s” began being used in the 1940s after [Gordon] Harwell and his business partner discussed a famed Texas farmer, referred to as Uncle Ben, known for his rice.

Why, exactly, is this “racist?” And by the way, Uncle Ben, like Aunt Jemima, has been with us for many years. When did the corporate suits at Pepsico and Mars decide that these product brands were “racist?” Have they been racist all along, and the suits just now noticed? Were Pepsico and Mars pro-racism until this week? Or is the whole thing just corporate bull***t, trying to climb on a trendy bandwagon with no concern for the practical effects of their decisions?

I vote for the latter. The effect of these instances of corporate pandering to the mob will be that two positive and longstanding images of black Americans will disappear from view. How is this good? If you were trying to stimulate racial conflict, it would make sense to remove all positive images of African-Americans from grocery stores and other public places. Otherwise, it is hard to see what the motive might be.

The case was very much the same with Land O’Lakes’ decision to remove the Indian maiden from the company’s ubiquitous butter. This, too, was a positive, friendly, wholesome image–something apparently in disrepute these days. And there is a back story here: the Land O’Lakes maiden was painted by a Native American artist. Over the years, it was seen by countless millions. But now she is gone. What is in her place? Nothing.

The Indian girl has vanished, become invisible, soon to be joined by Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. And if you are a liberal, apparently you think this represents progress.

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