Frances McGaughy lived in Idaho during the time her mother, Agnes McGaughy, played the local version of Aunt Jemima for Quaker Oats in the early 1960s.
McGaughy was a big woman with a friendly, jovial countenance. A perfect fit for the pancake icon.
“I was proud of mother for being her,” Frances said, adding her brothers and sisters had pride in their mom as well. She said the Aunt Jemima character never offended the family.
Frances said her mother never made pancakes. Other people on stage during her public performances did that chore. Her mother simply spoke to the audience and gave out advice as Aunt Jemima.
“She was the star,” Frances said.
Contrast that sentiment with today’s belief that the image of Aunt Jemima, as well as those of Uncle Ben and Rastus, the icon for Cream of Wheat, are racist and need to be removed.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice-president and chief marketing officer for Quaker Foods North America, said in a recent news release.
“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 consumer’s expectations,” Kroepfl added.
There’s a belief that Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Rastus were stand-ins for what white people viewed as a generation of formerly enslaved Black cooks now lost to them.
These mascots were designed to be perceived as wanting nothing more than to be loyal servants.
Nancy Green, the national original model and icon for Aunt Jemima, died in a car accident.
At the time of her death, a North Carolina congressman proposed building a national Mammy monument to supposedly celebrate the faithful negroes of the olden days.
It also was reportedly meant to be a not-so-subtle warning to Blacks seeking equality that their chains could always be replaced.
We live in a time now where the march for equality of all is at the forefront of movements like Black Lives Matter.
The impetus for these movements and boycotts stems from incidents of police violence and other overtly racist incidents.
Now it’s not just Aunt Jemima under attack, but Dr. Seuss as well for being racist and Mr. Potato Head for being misogynistic.
Aunt Jemima may have started out as an offensive character wearing a hankie on her head and such, but in recent years she sported a perm and an updated look similar to the white Betty Crocker cake mix icon.
Some Dr. Seuss books are being removed from library shelves for having characters with racial stereotypes.
Mr. Potato Head is accused of being misogynistic because the makers of the toy removed parts from it that make its sex interchangeable.
Much of this stuff is stupid overkill and being easily offended. Kids don’t see racist and sexist offenses in these books and toys, they just see toys and books. If they learn racism and sex discrimination, it most likely comes from their homes and environment.
I read a Facebook meme the other day that said, in effect, that we can remove statues, icons and books all we want to combat racism but real change has to come from within.
This removal of things seen as racist soon will prove to be pathetically unfruitful. The real work is the chore of changing hearts and beliefs through education and other means.