WASHINGTON – 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 times have changed, under pressure from the streets.
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, admitted in a statement “that the time has come to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual identity, and that’s 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,” said the press release.
Quaker Oats, on the other hand, will get rid of the brand’s visual by the end of the year and will then change the name.
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.
The image of Aunt Jemima has evolved over time, “but not enough” recognizes Quaker Oats.
As for Uncle Ben’s, he inevitably evokes the cotton or rice plantations which, exploited only thanks to slaves, made the wealth of the south having started a bloody civil war to try to preserve this system at all costs.
The United States has known for over a month mass demonstrations denouncing police violence 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 omnipresent in American supermarkets, are the last two companies to react.
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.
Tuesday, the parent company PepsiCo announced a plan of 400 million over 5 years “to support black communities and increase the representation of black people” within the group.
As for Mars, the group stresses 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”.