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Why You Won't See Aunt Jemima on Shelves Ever Again

Quaker Oats finally makes a 130-years-overdue change.
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Quaker Oats announced early Wednesday morning that it is finally changing its Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix in order to completely rebrand the line, citing an effort "to make progress toward racial equality."

The popular syrup brand, which has existed for 130 years, features a Black woman named "Aunt Jemima," who initially was dressed as a minstrel character, on its instantly recognizable label. Quaker Oats recently removed the minstrel attire that featured a "mammy" kerchief amid an outcry of criticism over the perpetuation of a racial stereotype from the days of slavery. But, that hasn't been enough.

"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 press release, according to NBC News. "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."

Kroepfl added that Quaker Oats has worked to "update" the brand to be "appropriate and respectful," but it realized the changes were insufficient. As a result, the production of the Aunt Jemima label will cease as the company works on a totally new look and name for its syrup and pancake mix.

Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police over three weeks ago, the U.S. has seen an outcry of civil unrest that has led to a national reckoning and a complete reexamination of historic racial injustice. Many massive brands have expressed support of Black Lives Matter via social media, and now, brands like Quaker Oats, are being taken to task to update their images and practices.

During an appearance on the TODAY show Wednesday morning, Riché Richardson, an associate professor at Cornell University, called Aunt Jemima "a retrograde image of Black womanhood on store shelves," adding "It's an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation … Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype [that's] premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness."

It is not yet clear how Quaker Oats will rebrand these popular products, but the removal of the product based on racial stereotypes from grocery store shelves will almost certainly be lauded in many circles. For more, here's how to support Black-owned food businesses in your city.

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