In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, activists and consumers have demanded that companies take a stand against racial injustice or lose their business. The singer Kirby posted a TikTok video called “How to Make a Non Racist Breakfast” explaining some of the backstories of the Aunt Jemima brand. That video went viral.
Amid the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing criticism of the Aunt Jemima company over its offensive roots, the brand of pancake mix, syrup and other items will be removing its image—currently of a Black woman smiling while donning pearl earrings and a lace collar—and getting a new name, The Quaker Oats Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., announced on Wednesday.
“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,” Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. 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.”
Kroepfl said, “We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.”
The Aunt Jemima image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times, but the brand could not shake its history of racial stereotypes and connections to slavery. By 1989, Aunt Jemima had lost weight, abandoned her kerchief and looked more like a typical modern housewife. But the image and brand tweaks over the years were apparently not enough.