It was just announced by PepsiCo, owner of Quaker Oats, that Aunt Jemima will be retired. Her namesake, the country's favorite brand of syrup and pancake mix, will finally reflect our modern sensibilities. The acknowledgement was made in clear terms by Kristin Kroepfl, chief marketing officer, that the friendly smiling mammy, around since the 1890s (and awkwardly updated in 1989 for the 1990s) is "based on a racial stereotype". The new name of the soon-to-be re-issued product has not been revealed.
Incidentally, there has been some controversy over Uncle Ben's brand of parboiled rice for many years. However no plans are known regarding a change to his image. Mars Inc. states that he's based on an actual person, a rice grower by the name of Gordon L. Harwell, a black entrepreneur who supplied a high-quality grade to the Armed Forces during World War II. In 2007 the character was promoted to "The Chairman of the Board" in an ad campaign. That would seemingly be the justification for keeping Uncle Ben as he is.
Nike continues to support Colin Kaepernick, the controversial African- American NFL player who was shunned by the league for his displays of kneeling during The National Anthem. An ad he did for said sportswear company in 2018 was revived after the George Floyd incident and gained renewed popularity. An updated survey done on consumer response to the commercial showed that almost half of those originally opposed to its message or messenger now see it positively - even the most conservative viewers.
After Mr Kaepernick's four-year absence from the game more than half of its fans are petitioning for a team to take him on. Despite the objections of a core group of traditionalists who still find his actions to be anti-American, the NFL has decided to make concessions. Its commissioner Roger Goodell made a public statement to that effect. It appeared that he was reluctant or altogether insincere in doing so to many. The President of the United States tweeted his opposition to the move, with questioning its adherence to our patriotism.
But in the meantime Nike carries on with its objectives. Its general division pledged 40 million dollars to remedying racial inequality and other social justice-based issues and the sub-brand owned by Michael Jordan will contribute 100 million. The new CEO John Donahue announced that Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in America, will be a paid day off for its workers.
The travel and fashion industries have jumped on board the Good Ship Justice as well; but with mixed results.
Airbnb, the site offering use of private homes to member guests reiterated that it will do more to curb discrimination at the time of booking. The travel journal, AFAR, posted this as the subject of a notice:
"AFAR Is Too White—and We Plan to Change That".
Famous celebrity stylist and fashion entrepreneur Rachel Zoe for several days on end has made the focus of her web magazine's features / e-mail newsletters the work of up-and-coming Black designers. Virgil Abloh, who is also Black, the owner of the brand Off-White and the principal designer for Louis Vuitton men's line, bowed under pressure when he received pushback for criticizing the actions of those Floyd supporters turned rioters who looted the Vuitton stores.
Though it's deemed by many that Abloh spoke with the most tact that could be applied, he inevitably apologized for speaking out and donated money to the bail fund for his legal adversaries. A quote from The Business of Fashion, a trade magazine, reads, "People responding to looting but not to black cries for change is irresponsible and dismissive."
It's obvious from the recent change in corporate response that social controversies (legitimate or not) are known to be bad for business.
UPDATE: Mars Inc. has conceded to the need to review the image of its Uncle Ben's line.