Somewhere I imagine there is a man at his computer utterly livid at the fact that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben have changed their brands due to perpetuating racist imagery. That man is going to be big mad at the news Cream of Wheat has joined those brands in reevaluating its packaging.
Rolling Stone reports that B&G Foods, the owner of the Cream of Wheat brand, has launched an “immediate review” into the brand’s packaging. The Cream of Wheat mascot, who if I’m keeping it a buck, I’ve only known as “The Cream of Wheat Man,” is based on the character of Rastus. Rastus is a character who appeared in multiple minstrel shows throughout the 1800s. The name Rastus was even used as a racial slur. The character was removed from Cream of Wheat packaging in 1925 and replaced with one that looks remarkably similar.
“B&G Foods, Inc. today announced that we are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging. We understand there are concerns regarding the chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” B&G Foods said in a statement released to Rolling Stone.
On Wednesday, Quaker Oats made a similar decision in regards to its Aunt Jemima brand. The brand’s name is derived from the minstrel song “Ol’ Aunt Jemima.”
Okay y’all, between that and Cream of Wheat, I’m pretty sure breakfast is the most racist meal of the day. We, as a community, may need to look into just pivoting to brunch.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s 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.” A Quaker Oats rep said in a statement. The company made a commitment to donate $5 million across five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community,” which is incredibly vague.
Uncle Ben, the rice brand whose parent company is Mars, even got in on the action. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that one way we can do this is by evolving the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity,” The rice company said in a statement.
What amazes me most is that it took nearly a month of people protesting against systemic racism to convince companies that using mascots derived from the sordid history of minstrel shows maybe wasn’t the move.