The Demise and Removal of the Aunt Jemima Icon
The Quaker Oats Company
More Info at:
The Quaker Oats Company
P.O. Box 049003
Chicago, IL 60604-9003
Dear: Quaker Oats Company
We the undersigned are outraged and offended that your company has insisted on keeping as its trademark a racist, sexist symbol that has been an insulting degrading stereotype directed against black American women for over 100 years.
WE THE UNDERSIGNED demand that this negative stereotype of Aunt Jemima that seriously hinders and degrades the image of all black American women be removed. No black woman in America is safe from the cruel and disrespectful hurt of the image and history of Aunt Jemima. Not Oprah Winfrey, not even the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, both of whom have been slandered by this epithet. This contemptuous insult is hurled at all black women no matter what their occupation, achievements or station in life.
We the undersigned have lived with the reality that this image of Aunt Jemima, which has relegated black women into a debased low economic status of life, has damaged and vilified all black women living in America.
Despite all their efforts, despite all their work and accomplishments that so many black women have done, despite the many doctors, scientists, lawyers, teachers, astronauts, chemists, professors, despite all that black women have contributed to this country, the "mammy" image always forces them back into the segregation kitchen of many people's minds. When many black women go to the grocery store and see staring out at them from the product shelves, the grinning, subservient, racist icon of Aunt Jemima, they are reminded of a time during America's history when all that a black woman could be in many people's eyes was as a servile, docile, menial-laboring domestic, whose sole purpose in life was to live to serve others, with no care as to her own life, agency or autonomy.
It is through the mass media that the images of Aunt Jemima are proliferated and bombard the mental cognizance of persistent memory. Make no mistake about it, mass media plays a very vital role in the perpetuation of racist/sexist stereotypes against black people. The stereotyping of black people by media provides negative role models for both the minority/subjugated group and the majority/dominant group. This causes a rift of cultural isolation, prejudicial preconceived notions, racial and residential segregation, increasing the distance between the two groups, making communication extremely difficult, and fuels the lingering legacy and detrimental effects of the pervasive stereotypes.
Pancake flipping. Broadly grinning. Greasy, smiling, shining face. Teeth broadly flashing a huge show of white. Head rag, bandanna wearing, servile, anything for the folks. Icon of the world of segregation and meek utter unconditional unending servitude.
That the present image that now appears on your packaged products shows a slimmed-down, less greasy-faced, pearl-wearing Aunt Jemima, with the bandanna head rag removed, pearl earrings added and a helmeted perm done, does not in any way lessen the sting of the degradation this image has wrought against all black women.
The racist, sexist stereotype of Aunt Jemima has become entrenched into the subconscious memory and culture of all Americans, and like a health-destroying bad habit, has sneaked into our existence and psyches as to have become a normal image that no longer holds feelings of disgust, shame and revulsion. That the manufacturers of Aunt Jemima have for over 100 years been able to so skillfully integrate this disparaging symbol into American culture, as to lend it as imparting endearing qualities across all racial, gender and ethnic groups, has had a profound impact on the image black Americans have had of themselves and of the image whites, and other races, have had of black people, and especially the image that black women have had to contend with.
Stereotypes are the set of traits used to explain and predict the behavior of members of socially defined groups, therefore, based on this definition, stereotypes can and will result in perceptions of an extreme consistent nature, allowing for little, if any, variation within the target it seeks to define. Cut to the chase, a stereotype, in this case, Aunt Jemima, can be defined as a consistent representation of black women in advertising with images, words/text, and situations that in the end suggest that ALL members of that group (ergo, black women) are to live lives of perpetual subservience.
The stereotypes most associated with Aunt Jemima are considered as very negative by many black people. Traditional stereotypes are negative and always portray the intended group of people given the stereotypes in an unfavorable and disgusting light, and the main intent of stereotypes serves to stand for a whole diverse group of human beings. And nowhere is this more seen than in the case of Aunt Jemima, who is known to blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, etc. as the "motherly-think-of-everyone-else-before-herself-even-if-it-means-her-demise-both-physical-and-mental" Mammy image, due to 100 years of mass marketing.
Black American women have contributed so much to this country. We have survived the savagery of slavery, prevailed against the humiliating institution of Jim Crow segregation, and fought against the racist stereotypes that seek to destroy us. Black women have given tremendous gifts of industriousness, inventiveness, resourcefulness, and entrepreneurship----gifts that have made America a better country.
And the stereotype of Aunt Jemima/Mammy is the most insidious that black women continue to have to challenge, fight and suffer from. That black women have persevered against so many insurmountable odds, and have overcome so much travail that this country has seen fit to dish out to us---that we have remained steadfast in our unwavering fortitude to not bend and succumb beneath all that seeks our destruction in the way that stereotypes seek to do---that black women have hung on to that shining thread of hope that has brought us through so much, is a testament to our belief that we are NOT a stereotype.
Black women are real flesh and blood; living, breathing, feeling women with hearts, minds and souls that should be respected. The image of Aunt Jemima seeks to render all black women as irrelevant, INVISIBLE preconceived stereotypes of what so many people think a black woman should be, or should aspire to be.
The pernicious and insidious effects of Aunt Jemima is crippling and callous. The image of Aunt Jemima renders black women as no better than slaves fit only to serve the base interests of people who care nothing of black women's thoughts, needs, and desires.
We the undersigned demand the demise of Aunt Jemima, a holdover from a time when America was all too happy to show nothing but hate, cruelty, and racist sexist preconceived thoughts of what a black woman should be.
We demand that Aunt Jemima is an icon whose time has long come and gone.
We, the undersigned, demand that the Quaker Oats Company immediately and permanently renounce and retire this most hated stereotypical icon that degrades and insults the integrity of all black women.
There is no further known reason to continue to have as a trademark a symbol that both degrades and mocks all that black women have given to America.
There is no reason to continue to have as a trademark a symbol that says to black women that no matter what they do in America, no matter all the years, decades, centuries of work as hard-working, law-abiding citizens---all that black women do will continue to be overshadowed by the racist, sexist legacy of Aunt Jemima.
We demand that the "Aunt Jemima" icon and the words "Aunt Jemima" be removed from all of your merchandise that now carry this hated trademark: pancake mix, frozen waffles, corn meal, syrup, any and all merchandise currently packaged and sold by the Quaker Oats Company, and in its place that the words "Quaker Oats" instead be placed on your products.
Black women have had to contend with the insulting blows that Aunt Jemima has delivered for over 100 years.
It is finally time for the Quaker Oats Company to start to truly give respect and honor to all the glorious contributions that so many black women have made in their lives in this country.
It is not necessary to degrade and insult an entire race of women to sell a product. And that is the message we black women of America receive from the Quaker Oats Company. We the undersigned will work diligently to bring down this hated icon of racist hatred and we will not cease until your company ends this reprehensible symbol of a people's continued devaluation and degradation.
It is time for Aunt Jemima to be put out of her misery. It is time to start giving black women the respect that we so rightfully deserve.
Enough of the cruel barbs of Aunt Jemima's grinning, slavish, servile, face that is a throwback to a time when black women were looked upon as only fit to serve the bottomless pit of others needs, all the while expected to deny their needs and right to respect.
No more to Aunt Jemima.
Enough is enough.