If the owners of Aunt Jemima syrup can phase out a brand that’s been around since 1889 because it’s racist, certainly the Washington NFL team can get rid of the racist R-word that has only been around since 1933.
Quaker Oats Company, which is in turn owned by PepsiCo, decided to abandon the familiar trademark even though it’s been around for generations because, in the company’s words, it is “based on a racial stereotype.” To put it bluntly, that stereotype is the black slave “Mammy,” who lovingly raised her white owners’ children. Now Aunt Jemima will soon become a part of the nation’s sordid past.
And presumably so will Uncle Ben, of Uncle Ben’s rice products. Mars, which now owns the brand, announced that it will “evolve,” i.e., slowly disappear. It’s been around since 1946.
Earlier this year, Land O’Lakes announced that it would get rid of the Native American woman who had symbolized its products since the 1920s. And other prominent brand owners are examining their trademarks.
But the Washington professional football team and owner Dan Snyder have no apparent misgivings about slurring the country’s first population. Snyder is on record telling USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”
Well then, Dan, you’re a BIGOT. It’s as simple as that. The definition of the R-word almost always has the word “offensive” attached to it. Why would a sports franchise want to use an offensive term as a brand? How could minority players be willing to play on the team, when at the same time they are decrying the prejudice against people of color that saturates the United States?
We’re hearing the words “systemic racism” a lot these days. To be honest, we have made progress since the days of Jim Crow, thanks to brave protestors, justices and judges, and thanks to the civil rights acts of the ’60s. But for every step forward we end up taking several steps backward.
When Barack Obama was elected president, the nation celebrated a new Age of Enlightenment. Finally we were putting the ugly bigotry behind us. But it was only hiding and came roaring back. Yes, we elected and re-elected a black man as our chief executive. But then, who did we choose the next time? Donald Trump, that’s who. He ran as a bigot and he governs as a bigot, giving constant encouragement to the white supremacists among us. Time and time again he has accused those who protest police brutality against people of color of being “thugs.”
Millions of blacks and whites marched in so many cities in the wake of the video of George Floyd’s murder at the hand of white cops in Minneapolis. Trump was quick to say that they were being manipulated by the leftist terrorists Antifa. He offered no evidence, and in fact there is none. But he has said nothing about extreme rightists, and there is plenty of evidence against them. These are heavily armed militia groups, some even dedicated to starting a civil war. The Trumpster doesn’t condemn them, because they make up an important faction of his base.
So yes, let’s search out and get rid of as many symbols of racism as we can — Aunt Jemima, demeaning names of sports teams, Confederate flags, other bigoted trademarks. And one other: President Donald Trump.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.