SINCE the emergence of the Black Lives Matter campaign, a number of major food manufacturers have had second thoughts about the characters on their products and the names they use.
This week, Mars decided that after 70 years, it was time to move on and let its rice products evolve and become Ben’s Original and the image of the elderly Afro-American (said to be Chicago maître d’hôtel Frank Brown) smiling from each packet will be removed although a new design is yet to be unveiled.
At the same time, Quaker Oats has decided to drop Aunt Jemima from its syrup and pancake packets and bottles as she is now considered to be a stereo typed ‘Black Mammy’ which has insulting connotations to black people.
Indeed, those who are seen to be subservient to white people were often referred to as ‘Uncle Toms’ or ‘Aunt Jemimas’ so to some extent, the disappearance of these possibly offensive images could be good for race relations.
Anxious not to offend other minorities, the makers of the ice cream Eskimo Pie will be changing their product name and the Washington Redskins NFL franchise dropped both their logo and Redskins name supposedly following pressure from sponsors.
In the Far East, manufacturers are not always so interested in keeping racial harmony and one of the best-selling toothpastes in most of that continent is Darkie whose image is based on the blacked-up face of Al Jolson.
It’s actually owned by American Corporation Colgate-Palmolive who are aware of the insult in the name as they changed packaging for the USA and the name to Darlie but made a conscious decision to continue to continue to sell it as Darkie in the Far East.
Many European Countries have also toyed with black images on their products with the UK favouring the Golliwog with Robertson’s Golly who was retired in 2002 and the Black and White Minstrel Show which at one time featured a now repentant Lenny Henry in its ranks.
In Spain we have Conquitos, in France Banania and other countries have over the years used images of black people to sell their products but as concepts change so it is hardly surprising that these images are considered offensive by many who could be potential customers.
If you are insulted by a product then you will not buy it, yet regular customers of the products mentioned above are unlikely to desert in droves if the image changes and at the end of the day, the companies involved have probably worked out that they can appear enlightened whilst actually boosting their potential profits.