Social Justice in the Supermarket: Race in America

En 2020, las protestas provocadas por la violencia policial hacia la minoría afroamericana llevaron a algunas empresas estadounidenses a revisar los nombres comerciales de sus productos para eliminar estereotipos y connotaciones racistas.

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Molly Malcolm

Speaker (American accent)

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Aunt Jemima Flour

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Racism has never been okay, and yet it took a tragic incident to change some things that many people have considered racist for a very long time. Since the killing of George Floyd by an American police officer on May 25th 2020, and the international protests against racism and police brutality that followed, several US companies have committed to eradicating or changing brand names that are based on racial stereotypes and terminology. 


The first company to do so was the Quaker Oats Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo that owns the breakfast brand Aunt Jemima. This brand originated from a minstrel song called ‘Old Aunt Jemima,’ and was first used to sell breakfast food in 1889. By 1915, it had become one of the most popular brands in the US. It featured the image of a black woman based on a minstrel character, and the company hired a black woman called Nancy Green to promote it. Green had been born into slavery in 1834 and received very little compensation for her work for the company. In June, Quaker Oats said it would be retiring the brand “to make progress toward racial equality.”


A few hours after Quaker Oats made this announcement, Mars, Inc. said it would be revisiting and evolving its brand name Uncle Ben’s. This brand name is based on a racist stereotype of a black man. It was introduced in 1943 and has been used to sell rice and related food products in the US and around the world. The next day, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it would be changing the marketing and name of its Eskimo Pie brand, because ‘Eskimo’ is considered by many to be a derogatory term. 


Over the days that followed, several other companies made similar announcements. Nestlé said it would stop using the brand names Beso de Negra, Red Skins and Chicos to sell sweets. And Colgate said it would “review and evolve” its brand name Darlie, which once featured a man in blackface, considered extremely racially offensive. Darlie is a popular brand of toothpaste in China, where the brand name translates to ‘black person toothpaste.’ 


It’s not only brand names that have been criticized but also the names of American sports teams, specifically the Washington Redskins (American football), the Chicago Blackhawks (hockey) and the Cleveland Indians (baseball), because the terms ‘redskins,’ ‘blackhawks’ and ‘indians’ are all considered offensive to Native Americans. In July, the Washington Redskins announced it was changing its name and would be temporarily known as the Washington Football Team. Will the other teams change their names too?

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