Aunt Jemima was notably recognized for her red and white scarf that wrapped around her head, which Jesse Turner said gave her a maid appearance.
In a news release from The Quaker Oats Company on Wednesday they announced that packaging changes without the Aunt Jemima image would begin to appear throughout Q4 of 2020.
The name change would be announced at a later date. Though many agree with the move from Quaker Oats Pastor Jesse Turner of Pine Bluff says the name has an significant meaning.
“Most people don’t realize that Jemima is an African name,” said Turner. “What I’ve learned from reading my bible and studying is that was the name of Job’s daughter.
Job 42:14 reads: And he called the name of the first Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Kerenhappuch.
“That indicates to me some African reference. Not a name that was pulled out the blue,” said Turner. “It should stay there because it’s an African reference.”
According to Quaker Oats, the Aunt Jemima brand has existed for more than 130 years and has evolved over time with the goal of representing loving moms from diverse backgrounds who want the best for their families.
Aunt Jemima was notably recognized for her red and white scarf that wrapped around her head, which Turner said gave her a maid appearance.
The company rebranded her, giving her a more modern day look but people still felt her identity still didn’t represent the culture.
Calls for the Aunt Jemima brand to change its branding date back years, cited on NPR for example in 1980.
According to NPR, Old Aunt Jemima originated as a song of field slaves that was later performed at minstrel shows. "Aunt Jemima" was originally portrayed by Nancy Green, who was born into slavery.
"Aunt Jemima has her roots really in the minstrel era of the 19th century when dancing happy slaves were depicted on the stage, usually by whites in blackface," Patricia Turner, then vice provost of undergraduate studies at U.C. Davis and a professor of African-American studies, told NPR's Tell Me More in 2008.
“They took her bandana off, but then they gave her a perm so what now,” asked Sherrita Atkinson. “They should of thought about all this beforehand because rebranding is not going to change nothing at all.”
Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Quaker Foods North America said as they work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, they also must take a hard look at their portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect their values and meet our consumers' expectations.
"We recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kroepfl. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough."
Uncle Ben’s has also been criticized, using an elderly black man who wore a bow tie, which depicts a servant. On Wednesday the rice company said it did not yet know when or how exactly it will change its Uncle Ben's brand, but “to make the systemic change needed, it's going to take a collective effort from all of us – individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world."
While what most would call, racist imagery is being removed from shelves, a ban of confederate flags and statues are also being directed throughout the nation.
“Those statues represent something else and they all need to come down,” said Justin Gibson. “The confederate flag represents hate.”
Turner feels differently about the removal of the statues stating we should honor each other’s history and not tear down the statues because the other side may come to do the same to black monuments.
“It needs to go both ways. It does not stop,” said Turner. “It’s like I kill your dog, you kill my cat. This is our history. It’s been there for years. You move the statue but the history still remains the same.”
Turning believes this movement is an effort to emotionalize African Americans to go to the polls and vote and while that is important he said so is our history.
“At some point we have to sit down and understand our history,” said Turner.
Turner also believes more focus should go towards education, economics and poverty issues because he feels racism is being pushed forward into the minds of the young people.
“I cringe when school starts and all the hate and division that is being pumped into the community, who is going to look at each other in a different and wanting to defund the police,” said Turner. “Who is going to come to their rescue if an School Resource Officer is not on campus and the kids began to fight one another due to this hate, or if a child decides to bring a gun to school--but there are no officers to respond to the call for help.”
Turner said America doesn’t have a racism problem, it has a spiritual problem.
“It’s going to hurt our kids and students when they come back together,” said Turner. “All police officers aren’t bad. You can’t blame everyone for what some people do. The final results are it will become a race war because of the hate that people have.”
As other brands and companies begin to review their products, acknowledging racist roots, Kroepfl said they will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.
"We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today," said Kroepfl. "We are starting by removing the image and changing the name.”