Do You Know Why Aunt Jemima is Called “Aunt?”
Why is Aunt Jemima racist? Here’s exactly why. And I do mean exactly.
So, here I am, writing a quick article because people post things on the internet. For example:
(My guess is she has actually has figured it out and doesn’t care.)
God forbid white folks just say. “I can easily give up Uncle Ben’s Rice or Aunt Jemima’s Syrup” BECAUSE IT LITERALLY COSTS ME NOTHING PERSONALLY TO END THE USE OF HUNDRED YEAR OLD MARKETING IMAGES BASED ON THE FALSE NOTION OF HAPPY HOUSE SLAVES TO SELL US GODDAM SYRUP.
So what does Aunt Jemima have to do with racism?
This is from WikiPedia:
Aunt Jemima is based on the common “Mammy” stereotype, a character in minstrel shows in the late 1800s. Her skin is dark and dewy, with a pearly white smile. She wears a scarf over her head and a polka dot dress with a white collar, similar to the common attire and physical features of “mammy” characters throughout history.
The term “Aunt” in this context was a southern form of address used with older enslaved peoples. They were denied use of courtesy titles. A character named “Aunt Jemima” appeared on the stage in Washington, D.C., as early as 1864.
The fact is, not enough White folks are learning about and acknowledging the simplest cultural stuff (namely, how slave era images and language are still on our syrup bottles.)
“Aunt,” as in “Aunt Jemima,” was the term used for older enslaved women in the South who were not allowed by their white owners to use the term Mrs or Miss. Same with Uncle, as in Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice. Uncle was used for older enslaved men because they were not allowed by their white owners to use the term Mr.
Understanding how deeply racism is woven into white culture is a challenging lift for us as white people. It’s a challenging lift for me. The self-reflection piece is ugly and takes years to do. I’m learning every day just how deep this stuff runs. It’s like peeling an onion, there’s always more layers.
But this battle Black men and women have to fight for every inch of progress against entrenched white nationalist voices in our media, in our police unions, in the goddamn White House is exhausting. Thank you to those white folks among us who are doing the work and even may have been doing it for decades. Seriously, thank you. For the rest of us? It’s time for those us of, who fancy ourselves to be enlightened, to get into anti-racist work entirely. To turn it up a notch. To get loud. And the first step activists are asking of us is to do the work to educate ourselves. So here’s a place to start that work.
Oh, and ditch the syrup.
Want to learn about how to parent for anti racism? Dr. Saliha Bava and I co-authored an article here.