I must say I don’t feel the least bit gruesome for the subtle satisfaction I feel in acknowledging — dare I say, low key celebrating? — someone’s demise. But I don’t.
I suppose it helps that Aunt Jemima isn’t actually a person. She’s a construct. An antiquated, racist construct that has now officially been rebranded. Out with Aunt J, and in with the Pearl Milling Company.
Now we can all ingest Aunt J’s syrup and pancake mix with confidence, knowing that we aren’t actively helping to perpetuate damaging stereotypes that degrade and promote bias against an entire group of people.
Is it sad that it took George Floyd’s graphic, horrific and completely unnecessary death to prompt this action? Yes.
Is it enough? That depends on who you ask. My instinctive response is no, but I understand that change is often a slow and painful thing, and I’ll acknowledge that this is a definite move in the right direction.
Let’s hope that other brands follow Mars example, and continue to refine their older product lines and images — sadly, Aunt Jemima was Aunt Jemima for more than 100 years — to align with more inclusive consumer marketing, advertising, and branding strategies. Ones that don’t passively contribute to a false and damaging narrative about Black people, a subtle narrative often hidden in plain sight by a bright, frozen white smile.
One question though: Who is Pearl, and if she’s a real person is she being properly compensated for Mars using her likeness? In the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw: I can’t help but wonder…