Neil deGrasse Tyson was among the first celebrities on Wednesday to weigh in on Quaker Oats’ decision to rebrand the Aunt Jemima product line.
Amid new outcry and conversations about racism, the 130-year-old Aunt Jemima products were the subject of fresh debate, with the brand called sorely out-of-touch and deeply offensive. Quaker Oats agreed.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vp and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said 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.”
The Uncle Ben’s rice brand is under similar scrutiny.
Renowned astrophysicist and TV personality Tyson on Twitter shared a retro advertisement for the brand to highlight his point: “It’s not that Aunt Jemima was a symbol of a racist past, she was the very embodiment of a racist past. She will not be missed by anyone who knew that.”
It’s not that Aunt Jemima was a symbol of a racist past, she was the very embodiment of a racist past. She will not be missed by anyone who knew that. pic.twitter.com/7F3yx62oYX
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 17, 2020
The Aunt Jemima image was originally dressed as a minstrel character but has been updated through the years. Still, Kroepfl said those changes were not sufficient.
Aunt Jemima is far from the only brand experiencing major pushback. Disney has also found itself in the conversation as calls for it to rebrand one of its classic theme park rides have gained traction.
Splash Mountain, featured at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, features characters from the 1946 film Song of the South, a movie so overtly out-of-touch and racist, Disney chairman and former CEO Bob Iger made a point to note the film would never be available for purchase or to stream on Disney+.
A number of petitions are floating around online, at least one with some 21,000 signatures, calling for the ride that debuted at Disneyland in 1989 to be rebranded for The Princess and the Frog. The celebrated 2009 animated film featured an African American female protagonist.
Thus far, Disney has not responded.