Opinion: Erasing Aunt Jemima screams racism

It’s a topic that many have forgotten about since the Summer of 2020; the slippery slope of cancellation. It started out with pancakes and it’s heading towards…

Aunt Jemima was an iconic brand; her commercials and pancakes filled homes for decades. The face, voice, smells, and taste of Aunt Jemima’s brand was a positive one for most people as children and adults.

Lillian Richards, who played Aunt Jemima, loved her job. Her family argued over the summer of 2020 when cancellation was in full effect, that erasing Aunt Jemima and rebranding would erase history. Not only does race rebranding erase history, but gentrifying brands and monuments is inherently racist.

“‘This comes as a slap in the face,’ Larnell Evans Sr. said. ‘She worked 25 years doing it. She improved their product … what they’re trying to do is ludicrous,’” said the great-grandson of one of the women who played Aunt Jemima to NBC News.

Critics of the Aunt Jemima brand argued for years that the portrayal of “Mammy,” a black servant-like character who happily takes care of white families, is racist. Quaker Oats didn’t portray Aunt Jemima in an attempt to propagate racism, so the brand itself couldn’t be racist.

Gentrifying the brand that’s been an iconic breakfast staple for almost a century, however, is inherently racist. No one, independent of color, sex, or religion, should be made to feel ashamed of where she came from. The relatives of Aunt Jemima’s various actresses all voiced that their aunts, grandmothers, and female relatives were proud to be the faces of Aunt Jemima.

In fact, Quaker Oats employed several of those actresses before other employers hired black women. Neither the intent nor the actual treatment of Aunt Jemima was ever racist, so people who called for its removal have created a narrative that doesn’t necessarily exist, and they forced that narrative, like BLM, on unsuspecting black people. Those calling for such cancellations erase history and the voices of so many black women and families employed by Quaker Oats, who they say was a wonderful company for which to work.

The cancellation also propagates the idea that people should be ashamed of their heritage or their backgrounds. Quaker Oats, rather than cancelling Aunt Jemima, should have rebranded with packaging indicating the brand’s historical roots.