‘Pearl Milling Company’ Is the New ‘Aunt Jemima’: PepsiCo Announces New Name for Old Racist Brand

Illustration for article titled ‘Pearl Milling Company’ Is the New ‘Aunt Jemima’: PepsiCo Announces New Name for Old Racist Brand
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

When I wake up in the morning and prepare for the long day ahead, I know that I can never skip the most important meal of the day. And for all of my breakfast needs, only one brand will do: *holds up box* Pearl Milling Company.

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My bad, y’all, I just needed to imagine the commercial to figure out how I feel about Aunt Jemima’s new name and brand, which was announced by PepsiCo Inc., owner of Quaker Oats, on Tuesday. In June, the corporation announced that it would be ditching its Mammy-inspired brand for something far less racist because, OH MY GOD, IT IS 2021!

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement at the time, CBS News reports. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”

So now the Aunt Jemima brand is doing its best Jay-Z impersonation and saying: “Allow me to reintroduce myself; my name is...Pearl Milling Company!”

OK, so the new name might not roll off the tongue the way other food brand names do—including that of the aforementioned remnant of white supremacy marketing—and it might be difficult to imagine how the name is appropriate for syrup and pancake mix, but the brand’s website explained it.

“Pearl Milling Company was a small mill in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri,” according to the site. “Using a pearl milling technique, they produced flour, cornmeal, and, beginning in 1889, the famous self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.”

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In a statement, PepsiCo said the new name was workshopped with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners,” and “developed with inclusivity in mind.”

PepsiCo’s announcement also included a promise of “a $1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women,” which is likely an obligatory attempt at making amends for the decades-long use of an image that stereotyped Black women—but it’s a welcome gesture nonetheless. According to CBS, the company also pledged $5 million in financial support to the Black community.

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Of course, haters—and by “haters” I mean oblivious white people—will continue to complain that Aunt Jemima is the latest victim of the largely fictitious “cancel culture” and that there was never anything racist about their beloved brand in the first place. But since white people aren’t Black women who have had the name hurled at them as a clear racial epithet, It’s best to just let their tears flow and move on with the new brand—which still has a weird name for breakfast products, but whatever, we’ll take it.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

jd02121
Nunna Yorz - American Justice Is A Joke

That brand name was way overthought. The history behind it isn’t recognizable or significant to most people and it’s not gonna be a catchy name. They should have just made up a completely new name not tied to the past. Something that immediately invokes the thought of pancakes or breakfast would have been a good start but “Pearl Milling” ain’t it. But yeah, good on them for at least deciding to no longer perpetuate one of the most well-known racist stereotypes for profit (after profiting from it for over 100 years).