A word about racist images

Are all these images racist? Which ones? Why?

Let me say at the start that Quaker Oats, which owns Aunt Jemima — uh-oh, that sounds like slavery — is free to dno anything it wants with its marketing imagery. The model for the original Aunt Jemima, Nancy Green, was born into slavery, outlived the evil of it, and was paid well for the use of her image by Quaker Oats, for which she made promotional appearances. Born a slave, when she died her image was in millions of American households.

The original image was of a fat black woman wearing a mammy headscarf, clearly a servant. In the early ‘80s, to get with the times and answer some complaints, Aunt Jemima was given a makeover to look more like a stewardess [PC translation, flight attendant], one of several revisions over the years. But today — no. The image was based on a “racial stereotype,” said Quaker, unconvincingly. If true, it took them 130 years to figure it out? Not very woke.

Some African-Americans thought rather than being warm and pleasant, the pancake mix image was offensive. So, out it goes, even though — can you name another pancake mix? And what would make more difference to African-Americans: changing the image or Quaker pledging to hire 1,000 black Americans? Yes, it could do both, but all I’ve heard about is the superficial change.

Over at Mars, the image of a farmer known as Uncle Ben is headed for the corn bin because, well, just because the company is using a picture of a genial black man, in a service profession. Everyone knows there are no black farmers, right?

Back at Quaker, as far as I know, no white people complained about the stereotypical white man in a Pilgrim-style hat, long white hair, and dressed a little like a priest. But he has no name and no family appellation. 

Maybe the “aunt” designation is the problem with Jemima. 

I wonder if sales would go up or down if Quaker signed Beyonce as the model. Up, I would bet. Quaker is still stuck with the Aunt Jemima name, not exactly as white bread as Betty Crocker. Maybe she’ll become Aunt Becky.

“Thank God this crazy crap didn’t happen in the ‘80s,” actor Robert Guillaume, who became a millionaire playing the butler “Benson” on the ABC series, did not say. “Yes, I was the butler,” he did not add, “but I was the smartest person on the show. Butler, my black ass!”

Gillaume opened the door and guess who walked through?

Bill Cosby as a black doctor, and “The Cosby Show” became the biggest hit in America for years, in spite of the all-pervasive racism.

Cosby became the famous spokesman for Jell-O, despite being black.

Jell-O eventually dropped Cosby, not because of the tint of his skin, but for the lack of content in his character.

11 thoughts on “A word about racist images”

  1. don’t look on a wheaties box ! leave my wheaties alone, they’re hard enough to get as it is.

  2. Racist images will always plague our nation because there are are so many of them! Look at some of the old Disney movies and you’ll see them. I’m more concerned about how Blacks are portrayed in the media especially the news. FYI- I grew up eating Duncan Hines pancakes because my mom liked them better. I think she bought Minute rice not Uncle Ben’s because it cooked faster.

  3. Now that we have a government holiday “Juneteenth” day can we keep Columbus Day and let the Indigneous people
    have a day too. This way we can try to live in peace and honor all these ethnic and Black & Brown days. We cant’
    and shouldn’t rewrite history but learn from it. To tear down Abraham Lincoln, now I hear even George Washington is
    absurd. Smart people learn and preserve history others destroy it. A very sad commentary!
    Leave the pancake mixes, cereals, movies and Paw Patrol alone.

  4. The guy on the oatmeal box is a Quaker. How come that sect hasn’t gone batshit crazy over their portrayal as old, fat guys dressed for Halloween? And can we do something about Charlie the Tuna? Do only white guys eat tuna? Why not rename Aunt Jemima “Malcolm X” pancake mix? Or “Al Sharpton” pancake mix? That should satisfy our black brothers and sisters. IS EVERYONE GOING CRAZY IN THIS COUNTRY?

    1. Those individuals you mentioned wouldn’t want their names on a pancake mix. Charlie is a damn fish. Where does race enter into that issue?

        1. I get it Vince.
          What say we go down the shore, grab some big mallets, and crush Mr. Peanut ?
          Then on the way back, we’ll jump Mr. Softee and turn him into mush !
          Later, We can stop by Auntie Anne’s and rub her face in the pretzel dough.
          All of those comments by me are sarcastic. The ones concerning Aunt Jemima, etc are assinine !

  5. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & readers,

    Perhaps we should recall America as a land of images, image polishing and manipulation via images. The media and advertisers and politicians, too, sell images, because they make $millions and enchant the public, though the products on offer may be ever so doubtful.

    Every land of images is, in turn, subject to the ceremonial breaking of images –iconoclasm. Of course we have a lot of that, too–for better or worse. The determined opponents of ruling images viewed as manipulative, occasionally set about to destroy them. The ancient churches of Europe are full of images and statues preserved or mutilated over the centuries.

    We might do better with fewer images and more concentration on words –consistent with traditional prohibition of “graven images.” What exactly did Moses say when he came down from the mountain and to find the worship of the golden calf? What did he substitute for the image?

    H.G. Callaway

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