Removing ‘Aunt Jemima’

Earlier this week on Twitter (because that’s where I spend my life) #BlackWomenDidThat was trending. The point of the trend was to acknowledge the accomplishments of black women throughout history…beyond the 2 or 3 mentioned in school. 

(Don’t worry y’all, the Aunt Jemima part is coming)

I scrolled through the the hashtag and of course ran into something that paused my walk through black lady heaven. It was a comment made by a white woman that, I doubt purposely, undervalued and overlooked the need for such a trend. Something along the lines of, “Black women and White women have both done amazing and terrible things in history so stfu #WhiteWomenDidThat #BlackWomenDidThat”

Now, I couldn’t help myself. Modern day Rosa Parks possessed me and I replied “nah.” Then went on to explain that society undervalues the accomplishments made by black women and that’s why we need uplifting hashtags like #BlackWomenDidThat. 

THEN. A white guy (I don’t mean to make everything so black and white but it’s relevant to the story and message) randomly replied to my tweet and said, “No one undervalues black women. Word to Tubman, Rosa Parks, Aunt Jemima etc.” 

The heat that rushed to my face was incredible. His response was nothing more than disgusting and I had no idea how to counter that. 

‘Aunt Jemima’ has a weird relationship with the black community. I can’t speak for all black people though so I’ll just refer to myself and my experience. 

I love the syrup and I love the pancake mix. (and I can say with confidence) We all do. However, as for the lady on the box, I don’t know many people including myself who want to be her. Growing up though, I definitely remember being called Aunt Jemima once or twice while walking around with a scarf on my head. Head wraps and scarfs are common for black girls. It’s protects our hair from messing up at night. Which is why you shouldn’t be offended when I say you can’t touch my hair. Nothing can touch my hair not even my pillow. Even though the modern Aunt Jemima had her scarf removed a few decades ago, the image and stigma remained. I’m only 18. I’ve never seen head scarfed Aunt Jemima on a box. I was never told she used to have one. But somehow the idea always made sense even as a little girl and I knew what people were talking about when they called someone Aunt Jemima. 

After reading that hate filled tweet, I read up on ‘Aunt Jemima’ and decided that along with the confederate flag, she needs to go. 

Aunt Jemima’s character was created to be a coon. Simple as that. If you’re not familiar with the term, think back to those old racist black face images of really dark skinned blacks with bright red lipstick and a smile. 

First you can literally see the similarity in the original branding of Aunt Jemima. Yet, a coon is more than an image. It’s an attitude and lifestyle. 

The roots of the character of Aunt Jemima potrays, celebrates, and pushes the stereotype of the black ‘mammie,’ the overweight, sexless, submissive black servant who **with a smile**who took care of her white boss’s little children while neglecting her own. Her function being to care for the white family’s every need cheerfully and selflessly. Yes, the character on the box had gotten a makeover in recent decades which included the ridding of the head scarf, but that is just as offensive. Literally giving a coon a makeover and figuratively dressing up racism. The roots are too deep, and the same way adding glitter to the confederate flag washes away none of its history, I’m not satisfied with the Aunt Jemima makeover. 

Now, I’ve heard the argument that modern America already wipes away so much black influence and taking away Aunt Jemima’s image will erase the truth that blacks did take care of white families and were responsible for popular recipes. My answer to that is, instead of circulating the image of a character created to be a coon, why don’t we TEACH our children about the place and importance of Blacks in American History. Sounds like an easy answer to me…but of course, we can’t do that, right?  

If you’ve read this far, I appreciate you. If you want to join my effort in taking down the image of Aunt Jemima from the product as well as demanding that the Quaker Oats Company compensate the decendents of the women who played the role of Aunt Jemima and made the product famous, please sign my petition here


2 Comments Add yours

  1. That’s deep. I never knew the history behind her.


    1. I didn’t either until earlier this week. It’s insane


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