Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s have had their day. Their black faces with bright smiles, like so many dated African-American stereotypes, should soon disappear from the shelves of American supermarkets, brands realizing that the era has changed, under pressure from the street.
Aunt Jemima, an iconic black woman who has been decorating Quaker Oats’ bottles of maple syrup and pancake mixes for over 130 years, perpetuates “racial stereotypes” and will disappear by the end of the year. year, promised Tuesday the company, which belongs to the Pepsico group.
In the process, Mars, another giant of the global food industry, acknowledged in a press release “that the time has come to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual identity, and that is what we are going to to do “.
But Mars remained vague on what it intended to do with its brand of rice and did not promise to give up the image. “We do not know at the moment what exactly the changes will be made or according to what timetable, but we are evaluating all the possibilities,” the press release said.
Quaker Oats, on the other hand, will get rid of the brand image by the end of the year and will change the name afterwards.
Aunt Jemima, a dark-skinned woman with a bright smile, evokes the black maidservants of the south of the United States and by association the first slavery, then segregationist past of this part of the United States, where the black minority remains submissive to numerous discriminations.
Aunt Jemima’s image has evolved over time, “but not enough” recognizes Quaker Oats.
As for Uncle Ben’s, he inevitably evokes the plantations of cotton or rice which, exploited only thanks to the slaves, made the wealth of the south having started a bloody civil war to try to preserve this system at all costs.
Black Lives Matter
The United States has known for more than a month of massive demonstrations denouncing the police violence made against African-Americans and more generally racism in general and the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery.
Faced with pressure from the streets and networks, the country – and its companies – has plunged into a vast introspection on the place given to the African-American population in society and the systemic racism that strikes and perpetuates it inequalities.
All the indicators show that black Americans are disadvantaged compared to the white population: access to education, care, employment, housing, banking system, etc.
Quaker Oats and Mars, whose products, such as those of the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s brands, are ubiquitous in American supermarkets, are the last two companies to respond.
But before them many others embraced the slogan “Black Lives Matter” and promised to amend their recruitment methods to facilitate the hiring of members of visible minorities or even to pay money to improve the integration of the community. .
Positions sometimes considered hypocritical and opportunistic to the point of having created the expression “BLM washing” like “Green washing”, which designates business strategies pretending to fight against global warming or protection of the environment.
Aunt Jemima has announced that she will donate $ 5 million to initiatives for the African American minority.
On Tuesday, it was parent company PepsiCo who announced a $ 400 million 5-year plan “to support black communities and increase the representation of black people” within the group.
As for Mars, the group stressed in its press release that “racism has no place in society” and promises to fight it all over the world. “We stand by and in solidarity with the black community, our associates (employees) and our partners in the fight for social justice”.