Thursday, July 31, 2008

continue to consume racist food products

Corporations all over the United States use "Indian" names, and companies have logos and trademarks with "Indian" themes. From the blue-eyed woman in "Indian Princess" garb on the door of the trucks of the "Navajo" trucking company to the "Indian princess" depicted on the Land 'O Lakes butter packages, stereotypical images of Native Americans are everywhere.

Many corporations add insult to injury by not only appropriating Native images and traditions, but scrambling them in the process. Tuscarora Yarns, for example, has chosen to represent itself with a logo that is a stereotypical image of a Native American in a Northern Plains Indian eagle feather headdress, often misnamed a "war bonnet." My grandfather --a full blood Cherokee and Tuscarora -- was born and raised in North Carolina, the traditional homeland of both these Native peoples. Knowing this, I educated myself about everything I could that related to both nations. Anyone else who took the trouble to do so would know that Tuscarora people did not wear this type of regalia.

--H. Mathew Barkhausen III,
Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) magazine

The above image, a seemingly warm, generous, and racially feminized offering of butter, has been emanating from Land O'Lakes products for over eighty years now. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I was a kid, I felt attracted to her.

My current embarrassment about that boyhood attraction arises in part from my adult understanding that this buttery "Indian maiden" is just one example of the white supremacy that permeates American life and culture, embedding itself into the most seemingly innocent practices and products. It's also part of a long, disgusting, and ongoing tradition of such advertising imagery, both here and in Europe.

The company that makes this butter, along with other dairy products, is now called Land O'Lakes, Inc., and it's been functioning with "Land O'Lakes" in its name since 1926. The "now-famous Indian maiden," as their web site continues to identify her, adorns all of their products.

I'd be willing to bet that this company has fended off numerous buyout attempts by food-giant conglomerates, and I'd also bet that the continuing and profitable appeal of this "Indian maiden" is a primary reason they've been able to afford staying independent. The trouble is, despite the wholesome, nostalgic aura that draws many consumers to buy Land O'Lakes products, the "appeal" of their "Indian maiden" is a racist one. To whom, exactly, does she appeal, and not appeal?

Like the hoary fantasies of "Indians" and "Pilgrims" sharing with quiet reverence the first "thanksgiving," the Land O'Lakes butter maiden helps white Americans sidestep and repress the horrific realities of what white Americans have done to Native Americans. It also invites continued white oblivion to contemporary Native American misery, by offering instead a warm, fuzzy image, an image that is also oddly sexist, in that it's both sexually alluring and warmly maternal (who knows, maybe that combination explains my pubescent attraction to her).

I'm considering a letter of protest about this to Land O'Lakes' headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota (letters are often tougher to dismiss than emails). I'm also wondering, though, if that would really do much good. After all, not many other consumers seem to object to her ongoing existence in the dairy section. And if most of those few who object are actual Native Americans, like H. Mathew Barkhausen III, Terri Andrews, Rob McDonald, or a blogger who calls himself the Pudgy Indian, well, that's still just a few, right? And they're just "Indians," right? Or so the white thinking seems to go on these matters. But maybe, adding my voice of protest, and yours, would help to send the butter maiden into the retirement that she's been deserving for a long, long time.

When I discovered on the Land O'Lakes web site that the "Prestigious Chef's Council" had endorsed their "Indian" butter, I thought for a second that the company had managed to find a willing council of Native American "Chiefs" somewhere. But, no, it's actually just a "chefs" council (and from what I can tell, all white ones).

And then when I read on another site that Land O'Lakes was announcing their first packaging change "in 86 years," I thought, "Finally! Another purveyor of commodity racism has seen the light." But no, I was wrong again--the only change is the shape of the package, to better conform with the different shapes in which butter has long been sold in some western American states.

"Commodity Racism," a useful term here, was coined by Anne McClintock (in her book Imperial Leather, which is named after a somewhat differently risible product--check out the cheesy, diversionary appeal going on here). McClintock charts the movement of racism during the Victorian era from the realms of science to those of manufacturing, particularly in advertising. The result was early ads like this one, which shows, as McClintock describes it, "an admiral decked in pure imperial white, washing his hands in his cabin as his steamship crosses the threshold into the realm of empire":

Or this one, which speaks for itself in terms of which race embodied connotations of cleanliness and purity, and which embodied the opposite (like you, I can't make out the words below the image):

Unlike Land O'Lakes butter, Pears Soap (which is still made by the British Company that first sold it in in 1789, a date that makes it the oldest brand-name in existence) is now sold in less objectionable ways. Their web site offers an interactive photo album that allows you to flip through examples of their previous advertisements; it's no surprise that the many racist, empire-boosting ads have been scrubbed, as it were, from the record.

As an American product, the obstinately old-fashioned Land O'Lakes butter maiden is part of a distinct tradition of commodity racism in the grocery store, a tradition that mostly consists of images that I'd rather leave in the dustbin of history than reproduce here. Still, a few are worth showing, by way of contextualizing not only the butter maiden, but also other racist images that still end up in today's grocery carts.

Such ads have appealed primarily to white people, by playing up to prevalent stereotypes about other people, as in this bizarre conjunction of text and imagery, for an oddly named brand of sweet potatoes:

Many other images of African Americans depicted them eating stereotypical foods, and sporting completely (and inaccurately) black skin and grotesquely exaggerated features. The latter are echoed in this ad* for American Apparel (click on it for a larger version):

But back to the particular kind of image that we still see in the butter maiden, that of iconic individuals who helped to sell food. There's Aunt Jemima, whose image still sells syrup, and who looked like this in 1899:

Like the butter maiden, Aunt Jemima has yet to be retired, though she has been "updated"; today she looks like this:

There's also the Frito Bandito. Fortunately, he has been retired:

So why am I filling up my white-folks blog with racist images of non-white folks?

Because such images are much more about white people, and especially white fantasies, than they are about actual non-white people. They conjure up thoughts and feelings of warmth, or humor, or security, but they do so by conjuring up racist thoughts, sensations, and even fears about subjugated people.

If we can afford to buy more food than the bare necessities to survive in terms of nutrition--if we're in a position to pick and choose--then we're also buying, and "consuming," the connotative aura that's added to the foods by the images placed on them. These images have much more to do with why we buy products than we often realize, and their effects in reinforcing racist ideas are also stronger than we often realize.

For me, the issue is quite simple--we should boycott these kinds of foods, and all such commodity racism should be retired.

And don't even get me started on the racist imagery that infests all levels of American sports.

(Contact info for companies listed above: American Apparel, Land O'Lakes, and Quaker Oats, the maker of Aunt Jemima products)

*As several readers of this post and this one have noted, this image isn't an "ad," but rather a magazine article; American Apparel's distancing of sorts from the image appears on their web site here.

UPDATE: The more things change . . . "A box of Obama Waffles is seen in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. A vendor at a conservative political forum was selling boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap. The product was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix and sold it for $10 a box at the Value Voters Summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council."


  1. In my household growing up, Land O Lakes butter, Chiquita bananas, Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben's rice were always plentiful. My mother is black and from Tennessee. It seems we knew these products were racist but were drawn to them anyway. Sometimes we made jokes about the irony of us purchasing such products. On the other hand, I think we were so starved for images of ourselves that we embraced these products in spite of their racist origins.

  2. text on the soap ad says "all sorts of stores sell it -- all sorts of people use it..."

  3. The American Apparel ad is a real person, not a mannequin, whose skin has been painted with very dark (almost black) foundation/body paint, and the lips painted a shocking pink colour. Nothing about her features have been reshaped. She is very beautiful. It is too bad, for I am unable to read the text that accompanies the advert's photo, which might provide information about the message of the advert. (Macon D, do you know what is written on the advert?)

  4. thank you for interpreting that ad copy for us, anonymous.

    rcb, if you click on the American Apparel image, you'll go to a larger version at another web site. Click again on that version to enlarge it, and then you should be able to read the words.

  5. So, what about the logos for Pilgrim's Pride, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mr. Clean? Are those racist since they have stereotypical images of white folks on them?

    My grocery store carries some ethnic foods with images of black people on them. These are products of black-owned businesses. Is it only racist if the company is 100% white owned? I'm pretty sure there are plenty of African-American stock holders in the companies that produce Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben's rice.

    Not saying that there's no such thing as racist food product logos, but to me the Native American lady on Land O' Lakes butter invokes feelings of gentle ties to the land and nature that I hold as a positive stereotype for the Native Americans of the period of her costume, in addition to the warmth and maternal aspects you mentioned.

    White Europeans were once nomadic hunter gatherers also, but if they put a picture of a Gaulish nomad on there, it might evoke a sense of warlike anarchy more appropriate for beer than for butter. But maybe that's just me.

    But suppose they put an image on there of a blue-eyed girl with rosy cheeks and long blonde braids, wearing a period costume from 2000 years ago. Then some people would complain that she was racist because she was only representing blue-eyed, fair-skinned Europeans.

    I guess my feeling is that, as long as a depiction is dignified and not humiliating, then it's not clear to me why it should be considered racist.

    For example, recent depictions of men in advertising seem unnecessarily humiliating to me. I interpret them as mildly misandrist. They bother me, not that much, but maybe enough to prevent me from buying a product.

    On the other hand, if there were an ad depicting Native Americans as blood thirsty heathens, I would probably do something in protest of that.

    But I think most uses of Native American imagery and wording have more to do with honoring history and relating to nature than anything else. I mean, many of our ancestors were pretty bad people with respect to Native Americans, and at this point there's not a lot we can do to make up for that. Perhaps white folks' attempts to honor Native Americans by usurping that imagery and naming is misguided, but it isn't really intended to be disrespectful.

  6. But I think most uses of Native American imagery and wording have more to do with honoring history and relating to nature than anything else.

    That is nonsense. The post explains how the image of the woman on the butter is derogatory. It pretends that Native American women exist peacefully to offer you something on their knees. It's not like the proceeds from Land O' Lakes butter go the the Navajo Nation or to the Hopi. The money goes to a corporation profiting off of the image of a people destroyed by homicidal maniacs. Even if "usurping that imagery" isn't "really intended to be disrespectful", it is disrespectful.

  7. Thanks for your comments, Dale. I agree with Bianca Reagan's response to part of them, and will try to answer the rest.

    So, what about the logos for Pilgrim's Pride, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mr. Clean? Are those racist since they have stereotypical images of white folks on them?

    No, they're not. Stereotypically racist images project assumptions about an entire race of people. There are no such stereotypes about the entire race of white people (except maybe that they can't jump, or dance--okay, there may be a few). The ones you listed are stereotypes about certain KINDS of white people, and they lack the sting of racism because no one alive that I know of actually suffers from them--there don't seem to be any Pilgrims around anymore, and if Kentucky colonels like that guy named Sanders are still around, I doubt it would hurt them much to hear comparisons between themselves and the most famous chicken-killer of them all. As for Mr. Clean . . . what's UP with that guy, anyway? Who or what is he supposed to be based on?

    My grocery store carries some ethnic foods with images of black people on them. These are products of black-owned businesses. Is it only racist if the company is 100% white owned? I'm pretty sure there are plenty of African-American stock holders in the companies that produce Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben's rice.

    I'd have to see those images before I could say. If they echo prevalent or still-hurtful stereotypes, then yes, I'd say they're racist. Non-whites can be just as destructively opportunist as whites in these areas. So regarding your question of who owns what, I'd say that it's the images themselves that are important, how a lot of non-whites regard them, and whether they reinforce racial stereotypes.

    Not saying that there's no such thing as racist food product logos, but to me the Native American lady on Land O' Lakes butter invokes feelings of gentle ties to the land and nature that I hold as a positive stereotype for the Native Americans of the period of her costume . . .

    There's no such thing as a positive stereotype.

    But suppose they put an image on there of a blue-eyed girl with rosy cheeks and long blonde braids, wearing a period costume from 2000 years ago. Then some people would complain that she was racist because she was only representing blue-eyed, fair-skinned Europeans.

    I strongly doubt that. I've never heard anyone say that, for instance, about the St. Pauli Girl who bursts forth from all those beer bottles.

    I guess my feeling is that, as long as a depiction is dignified and not humiliating, then it's not clear to me why it should be considered racist. . . . But I think most uses of Native American imagery and wording have more to do with honoring history and relating to nature than anything else. . . . Perhaps white folks' attempts to honor Native Americans by usurping that imagery and naming is misguided, but it isn't really intended to be disrespectful.

    You took the time to write, Dale, so I'll take the time to say this: try to shift your focus in such matters from "intentions" to "effects." Focusing on the former might help white people convince themselves that they're not racists, but it also prevents them from learning that much of what they do IS racist in its effects--whether that was intentional or not.

    Finally, I can tell you about that word "honor" in relation to stereotypical, romanticized, and thus "racist" images of Native Americans; it's a key signal to those who have thought about such things, and listened to countless indigenous complaints about them, that the user of that word has made no effort to understand why such images do not make the vast majority of Native Americans feel at all "honored." That's because, as my post explains, such images are more about white fantasies about the past, and about some connection "Indians" supposedly have with "nature" (the images of which are themselves self-serving white fantasies), than they are about real indigenous people, past and present, and the real relations between white Americans and the land's first inhabitants, past and present.

    So that's the basic problem, Dale, with these images in a white-dominated America, from food products, to dream catchers, to turquoise jewelry, and so on. For the non-native consumer, they're really more about how they tap into embedded, pre-existing, largely white fantasies of natives and "the land," than they are about real, living natives and the actual, abused land.

  8. Dale said "My grocery store carries some ethnic foods with images of black people on them. These are products of black-owned businesses. Is it only racist if the company is 100% white owned? I'm pretty sure there are plenty of African-American stock holders in the companies that produce Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben's rice"

    Doesn't matter who "owns" it, it's still wrong.

    And I disagree with Dale on "positive" stereotypes. There are no such thing as positive stereotypes no matter how much you convince yourself.

  9. I think I've got the mother of them all. I found at a garage sale a package of DARKIE brand toothpaste. The primary image is a cartoonish black man's face with a top hat and big, white teeth.

    There are Asian characters on one side, so I'm guessing that Darkie was not a product sold in America.

  10. The "ad" for American Apparel is not an ad, nor is it produced by the company. As you can see if you blow it up, it is a page from "I-D" magazine, "The Offspring Issue".

    There are some things to be concerned about with respect to American Apparel (sexual harassment charges against the CEO, for example), but this is not an ad produced by the company, so it's unfair to pin it on them.

  11. Macon D- I always thought Mr. Clean was supposed to be based on a genie, for some reason. Maybe I subconsciously made that leap because of the earring in one ear and the picture only showing him from the waist up, combined with his arms-crossed pose. It had a "Your Wish is My Command" look to it, in my mind. I could be wrong...

  12. Land O'Lakes is a farmer-owned cooperative. it is not publicly traded. This, and not the marketing of its products, is the reason that it has not been taken over by another company.

  13. What it says at the bottom of that Pears soap ad is, "All sorts of stores sell it - all sorts of people use it."

  14. This is much ado about nothing. Should we Irish-Americans (once as segregated, hated and disciminated against as Blacks) get our little green knickers in a twist about the imagery of the "Fighting Irish" or Lucky Charms mascots which were directly lifted from anti-Irish propaganda cartoons of the late 1800's? For heaven's sake! Concentrate on something which directly benefits the living members of these communities and stop nitpicking over this nonsense!

  15. The Irish stereotyped marketing is offensive, but it doesn't have the same sting as, say, the Land O' Lakes "Indian maiden" or Aunt Jemima, because the definition of white has since been expanded to include people of Irish ancestry. There has not been a comparable inclusion of people of color. This criticism of advertising images does matter because racism does not occur in a vaccuum. It's not nit-picking to point out all of the little things that combine to create an environment that is conducive to larger acts. Way to invoke the classic "quit whining about the small stuff and concentrate on x" silencing tactic, though.

    Macon D, I came here through a link on Bitch Ph.D., and am really enjoying your blog. :)

  16. Land O' Lakes actually uses the Indian Maiden on very little of their products. Most of their revenue comes from agriculture (feed, seed, etc.) and uses the Land O' Lakes, Inc. block letters. The Indian Maiden is only used on a handful of products that are directly linked to all-natural dairy products.

  17. Protest if you like. I never have seen anywhere where the maiden was ever called princess nor has she actually been offensive... but whatever you do, don't use Matthew Barkhausen the third as your example of a "real" native american. The man went from hearing his grandma had some cherokee blood to now his grandparents are both full blood tuscaroras and cherokees. He's full of crap and getting better at lying about it.... not to mention I think he's totally convinced himself he's actually indian now as well as others.

  18. Macon D wrote, "...try to shift your focus in such matters from "intentions" to "effects."

    • That is the problem here. You don't care about the intention of the product;s packaging, only on how you perceive it. There is very little that would probably not offend anyone. Can you image the uproar if all Native American images we removed from all 'non-white' images from grocery products? How about Uncle Ben and Aunt Jamima being replaced with 'white' people?

    Some of the ads presented in this blog are unquestionably racist, but drawing conclusions that a girl offering butter somehow means that all Land-O-Lakes is somehow inferring that all Native Americans are inferior genetic scum is asinine. Why should a 'white' person be better suited for butter just because the primary purchaser is most likely Caucasian? Should all products have a picture of a female since women do most of the shopping? Should the Gerber baby be replaced by an adult mother because babies aren't actually buying the product?

    You find it racist because you—and other posters here—are racist because you can't help yourself to not draw foolish and erroneous comparisons between such things. You are naturally look for the differences in people and how one may be considered inferior or inferring they are inferior, instead of seeing it as just a product and just an image when there is no evidence to support that the Native American girl is inferior. Her head is held up high, she is looking directly at the viewer, which goes against the theory that if she is kneeling that she is servile.

  19. Oh anonymous. You must feel as though you are being attacked. Try to let down the defense. I know it's hard to think that these familiar things that seem so natural to you are actually harmful to others. Try to put yourself in another's shoes.

    There is a lot on Land O'Lakes, Uncle Ben's, and Aunt Jemima to be offended about. They perpetuate unhappy stereotypes. The "noble savage," the "mammy," the "Uncle Tom." This is not the way that members of these groups wish to be seen, because THAT'S NOT HOW IT IS. And these images allow the majority to dismiss the minority, and fail to perceive them as intelligent individuals with a lot to contribute. They also dismiss many, many years of oppression that are still on-going, and perpetuate older, harsher stereotypes in subtler ways. So subtle, in fact, that you are unable to recognize them.

    I understand that we challenged your status quo, and this threatens you. But these inferences are very real. The creators may not have "intended" to stereotype and offend, but their creations were born out of ignorance. And they DID offend. Everyone is telling you now that WE ARE OFFENDED. And you don't have a right to tell us how we *should* feel. And no, we don't suggest the ad campaigns be replaced by white faces. We suggest that non-white models be used in non-stereotypical ways. There are already too many white faces selling us our shit.

    Macon, thanks for posting on this. We were just in the grocery store last month lamenting how we couldn't find butter that wasn't land o'lakes. We finally went to another store :)

  20. I think alot of what people see as racist here "Land O' Lakes" for example... are classic cases of human nature to the tune of "if you look hard enough for something you'll find it, even if it's not there" People are looking deeper into these images than they were ever intended to be seen.
    Every wall in my house is painted white, I drive a pick-up truck, I say "Merry Christmas" and I eat beef. I'm sure I just offended countless people by saying those 4 things. Point is, that was never my intent. Aunt Jemima was always a household image for me growing up, When i saw that box on the counter, it meant I was having pancakes for breakfast. I associate that logo with warm childhood memories. There are plenty logos of real & fictional white folks too; KFC, Wendy's, etc. Leave the past alone... go enjoy some Aunt Jemima pancakes... they are the best. :)

  21. NeonRooster, why leave the past alone when it affects (and effects) the present? Many of these images, including the butter princess, are still on our shelves, and they still appeal in racist ways, by calling on and reinforcing racist stereotypes.

    And speaking of effects, why do you think that when it comes to whether something is racist or not, intentions are more important that effects? Shouldn't it be the opposite?

  22. Macon D... I do understand what you are saying but I believe these images have long since moved beyond any racist origin or stereotype... That was a long time ago.
    In 1932 Adolf Hitler penned out a design that would become the VW Beetle, the most popular and longest produced automobile in history... Do people think about that tyrant when they see a Beetle? no... They more or less remind me of Herbie the love bug.

    I think we need to give these images and logos a little compassion... People, black and white alike. Nobody need take offense to that smiling black woman on the box of pancake mix any more than that happy white man on a big bucket of fried chicken.

    Can we not just learn from the past and leave these little things alone? this could be a dangerous slope if we abolish logos like this... do we never again use a black person in a logo? Include them in animated cartoons? Maybe it would be offensive to ever draw humans again?
    Wouldnt the lack of inclusion of races in logos and cartoons be considered racist in it's own way? but rest assured if there is enough stigma as to how they should be drawn and who might be offended, animators and artists alike wont bother.

    Many of todays logos, words and slogans came from racist origins.... look up the origin of the word "picnic" if you'd like a shocker.

    I dont think the answer is abolishment but rather a new acceptance of these things in a new light.

    1. I think your missing the point, its not the black ethnic faces being used that is the problem. Its the way these images are drawn in a stereotypical manner, and are still a by product of colonization and the money the economy makes from the exploitation of this.

  23. Colin, the idea of feeling compassion for corporate mascots that are based on racist stereotypes doesn't make any sense to me. They're not living, feeling people, for one thing.

    You say we should leave the past in the past--how about we do so by retiring these images, which still strike so many people, especially many among those whose races they represent, as offensive? That doesn't mean never depicting people of color or images of other people in advertising and on packaging. It means retiring those that are based on offensive and hurtful stereotypes. Asking people to accept the old images discussed in this post in a new light isn't going to work, because history and its effects are still with us, inspiring racism in the present.

    I wonder how closely you read my post? I can only repeat things to you that I've already said there:

    So why am I filling up my white-folks blog with racist images of non-white folks?

    Because such images are much more about white people, and especially white fantasies, than they are about actual non-white people. They conjure up thoughts and feelings of warmth, or humor, or security, but they do so by conjuring up racist thoughts, sensations, and even fears about subjugated people.

    As for the VW Beetle, no, people don't associate it with a person or a group of people because it doesn't look like a person or a group of people. It looks like a "bug." And it doesn't have a human-like mascot associated with it that reflects stereotypes about any particular group of people.

  24. Macon D. I am reading your posts but perhaps we are seeing things on different wavelengths. I may be oblivious (and probably am) to the stereotypical imagry used in many cases... but the current Aunt Jemima logo simply looks like a black woman to me, though i noticed she has changed from wearing a bandana-style piece on her hair some years ago.
    Perhaps you could help me see what you see...
    for example here is a bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. I am genuinly not trying to start a war here but i don't see anything the matter with it what so ever. The image of Aunt Jemima herself seems very respectful. Same with Uncle Bens rice... neither image has grotesquely exaggerated features (lips, etc) they are just simply a face in proportion...

    Is it because of the history that you would see these images removed from shelves?
    Bare with me, I'm only trying to see.

  25. Macon D. I guess I am also wondering where you stand on the use of human mascots. It would be impossible to use a human mascot without having him or her be of some race or another. If you were to use a human depiction as a mascot yourself... how would you go about it so as not to hurt anybody and how would the result differ from Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben, etc.

    Thank you for your responses by the way.

  26. NR, you seem to agree with Colin that because the times have changed, and the looks of these images along with them (with the apparent exception of the butter maiden), then these images are now okay. But I would like to see these images removed from shelves because of their history. That history accompanies them, no matter how much you yourself don't see it when you look at their new faces. The historical connotations they were created to inspire for white folks were, and for many, still are, connections between them and food, and more specifically, between them and the subservient work that many did, cooking food for white folks.

    The fools who recently made fun of Obama with the Obama Waffles box that I mentioned in an update to this post made racist fun of him because they were calling on particular associations between Aunt Jemima and Obama--because they're both black--but also they also created that box without (perhaps) realizing how offensive many people still find Aunt Jemima. Those who continue to profit from her image can gussy her (and "Uncle" Ben) up all they like, but as long as those two fictional product-pitchers have those two names, and as long as they're both black, and as long as they continue to inspire good feelings for buyers by conjuring up warm-but-actually-racist feelings, yeah, I think they should be retired.

    Yes, the same thing goes for racist human mascots, like the hundreds that have been retired in recognition of their racist caricaturing of, especially, Native Americans. Can you imagine a team named the "Seattle Spearchuckers," with a mascot dressed like some sort of cartoonish African "cannibal"? If that seems offensive to you (and I hope it does), then why are the Redskins okay, or the Cleveland Indians? Just because their fans claim that they actually mean to "honor" rather than ridicule Native Americans? If so, please think about effects rather than intentions.

    I don't mean to put words in your mouth; to answer your question, no, I don't think all human mascots should be eliminated, just those that perpetuate stereotypes. (And please don't come back with Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish"--very few if any Irish or Irish American people find such a symbol objectionable, partially because Irish Americans are actually white people who can take on or put off their Irish "ethnicity" as they please. Native Americans and African Americans and other non-whites can't do that.)

    Does that help?

  27. Macon D. I see better where you're coming from. I am Colin, I'm not sure why it posted with that instead of NeonRooster that time but we are one in the same. sorry about that.

    I guess, I myself didn't really pay much attention to it. I saw famillier faces like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben (both share the same cupboard in my kitchen as we speak) as just icons, I do remember looking at that syrup bottle as a kid and wondering who she was and if she was real but thats as much thought as I ever gave to it. To assume most folks see these logos the same as I do is a bit far fetched i guess. If that were the case, there probably wouldnt be a problem.
    I just always chose not to participate in anything racist ever in my life and it seems in recent times I'm finding out I have according to a few folks. Like I said, I have those products right now.

    But it hurts when folks tell me it's Inapropriate to show children movies like the Tales of Brer Rabbit with songs like "Song of the South". or Dumbo because of Jim Crow and his buddies... or the most recent being Jungle Book because of King Louie....
    I own all of these and regard them highly... I loved them as a kid myself. I honestly get a little defensive when someone tells me such movies are "racist".

  28. Wow! I had always been pleased with the beautiful American Indian on the Land-o-Lakes products because she reminded me of the quality of life the original Americans had made for themselves. I was further pleased with the 'symbol' because, to me, it was one of the best products available. I was proud to have, at least a part of my heritage, represented by such a fine product.

    The statements about it being derogatory with her on her knees brought sorrow to me for the person who wrote such a comment. While not all Native Americans were peace loving, the vast majority were. I have relatives on both sides. I was happy to see the remarkably friendly nature of the Indian Princess. I hope she stays around for a long long time to remind people of the spirit of Mother Earth in most Native American Indians as well as the kind nature of the original Americans.

    I suppose we can ALL choose to see whatever we are pre-disposed to seeing. I am pre-disposed to seeing good in things, so, more often than not, that is exactly what I see. I am hopeful I got that from my Indian genes. I am also very trusting. I am quite certain I got that from my American ancestors.

    If I chose to find evil in everything, I am quite certain I would be mortified at my success. I guess I should stop buying any product with an African African represented on the cover because, after all, they are the people who sold their prisoners into slavery.

    Instead, I choose to find the good in all I see. We all have that choice. And we all take our own weather with us.


  29. After reading your more recent posts, I think I finally have a better understanding of your point of view.

    Recently, perhaps five years ago, when the Indians (baseball) were on top of the world, there was a big to-do about the logo. If was discovered by polling that less than 3% of the Native American Indians found anything offensive with Chief Wahoo. Since it would be impossible to develop a mascott which would offend NO ONE, I think 3% is pretty good.

    However, now that the Cleveland Indians are, um, well, let's just say: Not winning, The % may be higher.

    Aunt J's syrup offends 99% of all maple producers. Ban the product altogether. OK, that doesn't make much sense, since only a tiny percentage of people make maple syrup. Or does your racism only pertain to blacks and Indians. Too bad for the farmers? Too bad for the Irish? "...and they put them down below, where they'd be the first to go..." You cannot tell me that is not racist. Let's take your point on history: If it perpetuates.... then it has to go. So the Lucky Charms character is out as is the mascot of the Fighting Irish. Either history is in, or it is out. It is unrealistic to use history as a defense only when it serves your purposes and to deny when others use it on the side for which you have not taken the time to consider.

    'The intent is insignificant compared to the effect' If someone calls me a savage and intended to hurt my feelings, I would be offended. If, on the other hand I was returning from my deerstand with blood up to my armpits, I think we would both have a good laugh at the name-calling. That is because that is how I would CHOOSE to interpret the remark.

    WE CHOOSE HOW WE REACT. WE CAN NOT CHOOSE WHAT OTHERS INTEND. If you find the Indian Princess offensive, it is because you choose to do so. I choose to be warmly reminded of my roots, and I expect I am not in the minority here. Oh wait. Am I allowed to use the word minority or will people be offended? I guess that would be their choice.


  30. Thank you JCS! How you interpret an image is not what the creators may have meant. You can be offended by anything you want to.

    In response to your comment: Can you imagine a team named the” Seattle Spearchuckers," with a mascot dressed like some sort of cartoonish African "cannibal"? What about if the team was based in the South and they choose to be Spearchuckers to honor the African American Community because their ancestors came from Africa where spear throwing was a way of life? Would that be offensive? Or should we model the mascot off of Lil’ Wayne and all the players can run around with dreads and giant chain necklaces? Or should teams just not have human mascots?

    I have always enjoyed buying Land O’ Lakes Butter because it’s really good and it does show a minority. (Maybe we should just have a cow, but be sure that it’s not all white or all back. IT should be 50-50 so you know race has no impact what so ever.)

    I have never interpreted Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben’s as racist. It’s a person on a product. That’s it. How are we as a civilization going to move past racism if people keep making huge deals out of things this small? (Why not get offended about all the people dying and being displaced in Sudan and be angry at the world for not doing anything worthwhile?) It’s a person selling a product on a box. That’s it. Should I be offended because the Coppertone Girl portrays all blue eyed, blonde hair girls as topless sluts? Maybe Gingers (or should we not call Irish people of fair skin, freckles and red hair Gingers- they probably don’t like being associated with a root) should be offended by Wendy’s because obviously it’s portraying Freckled-Red-Haired Individuals as only eating hamburgers. Maybe we as an English speaking nation should be offended by their new slogan “It’s waaaay better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s” because 1. it’s destroying our language and 2. it’s a lie. It’s still fast food, according to, ” food, as hamburgers, pizza, or fried chicken, that is prepared in quantity by a standardized method and can be dispensed quickly at inexpensive restaurants for eating there or elsewhere”. Or maybe I should be offended because the Morton Salt Company doesn’t have a black girl with salt walking down the sidewalk. Can I even say black or should it always be African American?

    I for one dislike being called ‘white’, I’m not white- I’m European American. So please, when referring to ‘racist white people’, maybe redirect your words and thoughts and say ‘misunderstanding European Americans’. That way we can all be politically correct.


  31. It's just advertising. Get over it!
    All races of people have been used in advertisments. I really don't think YOU know what your talking about.
    Color me Blue.

  32. I am currently working on a project for a class, Native American Media and Cultural Studies, which includes the stereotypes on food based products.

    My major is Critical Media and Cultural Studies. I have been trained to deconstruct advertisements, to look for underlying themes. To ask why.

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon your blog post on this topic. You hit the nail on the head.

    The biggest problem I see--and I may be paraphrasing S. Elizabeth Bird--the problem with these logos is that the White man created it. Whites don't allow Native American's to create their own identities. Unfortunately, Whites have constructed (since the exploration of the Americas in the late 1400s) the imagery and identities of Native Americans.

    Brands, logos, mascots, etc. do show our acceptance of stereotypes. As a consumer, you might be naive to these, but in purchasing a product, such as Land o Lakes butter, without questing the representation of the "Indian Maid" you tell the company their logo is working. Advertisements are most effective, when you are not fully tuned in.

    To the poster who said, "It's just advertising. Get over it!"

    It's just advertising? Really? Every single strand of hair is precariously intentionally situated in ads. If it's just an ad, why do companies spend BILLIONS on it? Advertisements sell products, an image, a lifestyle. So it's really just advertising? That's like saying--if you are religious--the Bible, Quran, or Tao te Ching are just books.

    Do not underestimate the means in which big companies go to manipulate and construct people or things to sell and make a profit.

    One must not write off these things as tradition. Tradition is created. In this case, tradition was created to exploit and Other Native Americans. It was also contrived to cover up the hundreds of years of massacre with attempts to wash our hands clean of any wrong doing our forefathers did.

    If cultural theorist Roland Barthes has taught me anything, it is to see what is not being said or to “mind the gap.”

  33. I'm seeing some are having a hard time seeing these caricatures as racist, but maybe that is due to the fact that you do not realize the history behind such caricatures. I invite everyone to stop by this link to catch up on some of the histroy behind racism and images such as these and why they offend so many still to this day.

  34. After reading this, I was transported back to the days when I was a child and remember eating toast and using Robertson's jam, which always had the "great golly brooches" and golliwog tokens with pictures of "golliwogs" dressed in suits etc. I always wondered what they were supposed to mean until I grew up and realised what the "golliwog" was supposed to signify. After this, I told my mother and we stopped buying that brand of marmalade for about 8 years, despite liking it so much and growing up eating it, even when I went to live in Africa for 5 years we always had it.

    We only resumed buying Robertson's orange marmalade after they took the golliwog tokens off the packaging.

    To be frank, there are a number of companies today that had a number of racist images in their advertising, take Cadbury's for example, a brand I grew up on both in the UK and in Africa. Their advertising many years ago (in the 60's) were quite openly racist, my friend has a book where these adverts are showcased and I was very shocked indeed.

    I also vividly remember some very controversial adverts by United Colours of Benetton from back when I was a teenager, some of which completely put me off buying from them for a number of years, although I think their adverts were meant to break down racial barriers in a strange sort of way.

  35. Some of these commenters should probably take off their white hoods before having a seat at their computer.

  36. To be honest, we talk about all us "white people" thinking about effect rather than intentions, but really, where do we see the same appealing imagery of White people on our food products?

    I almost feel like the Native American girl is more of a tribute to a great people, deserving respect in this country, than it is a "sting". And then the rest of the post just reminds us of racist propaganda we already knew about.

    I don't see anything negative about portraying an attractive Native American, surrounded by nature, represented a tasty butter brand. This is not a stereotype that has been abused; if it has, then we're learning racist stereotypes whenever we study colonial-period Native Americans and their culture.

    I should hope that the image of the girl helps bolster Native Americans' culture when they see it... and I see no point of demonizing everything that could potentially be interpreted as offensive to some sensitive members of a group.

    Why not ask a Native American what he/she thinks rather than hurl wild accusations and bring up the past, which we've already been made plenty ashamed of?

  37. @ Tree,

    (1) "Attractive Native American, surrounded by nature". See noble savage; Magical Native American. It's a stereotype; it has been and is still being abused. More to the point, the stereotype is a misrepresentation and an abuse of many vibrant cultures and persons.

    (2) "colonial-period Native Americans and their culture."


    >> "I should hope that the image of the girl helps bolster Native Americans' culture when they see it..."

    This is a joke, right?

    (Seriously. Tree's whole comment reminded me vaguely of stuff that wouldn't *quite* make Colbert Report).

  38. Bass beer's trademark is older than Pears':

  39. The institutionalization of slavery within this country, took a long time to create; unlike indentured servitude chattel slavery in this country (the largest forced migration of an ethnic group in history), was indeed a very "peculiar" institution. A system that developed through state law to strip the rights of Africans and their descendents, as well as creating a dichotomy of racial superiority and inferiority. It is my opinion that when discussing race some people may feel guilty because of their ethnic background or uncomfortable and disregard the topic matter all together. Claiming it is all in the past...people should just get over it..."witchhunting makes YOU (the people bringing up steretypes, racism or discrimination)the racist. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Racism and discrimination our woven into the very fabric that makes up the American flag, and if you are unsure about it one only has to take a close look at the history of this nation. In regards to slavery, I beleive that we are all victimized by this long chapter in American history which did not end after the Civil War, because American slavery wrought out of a need for economic labor, became something far different to justify the means.

    We all suffer as a people, and stereotypes and racism is apart of our culture. There is no need to be offended, no one is saying anyone here came up with the Aunt Jemima illustration; however websites like these, and bloggers like MaconD should be commended on opening up a dialogue that all Americans shouldn't feel uncomfortable in having.

    Truth is truth, it isn't personal.

    You just need to realize that Americana images from the past which have maintained their presence as "spokesmodels", reflect the past, and our acceptance of them in the present speaks to how much these images are ingrained in our culture.

    So go ahead and by your Aunt Jemima, but RECOGNIZE.

    1. Good point of view.

      The images are by products of the colonization period when sciences tried to prove inferiority and superiority to justify the enslavement of one race in such a barbaric way.

      just because they updated the images doesnt change where they came from. This is why some people have the view society hasnt changed. Because images taken from colonial days are still used by companies to profit in 2012. And if ethnic people are that popular why dont they use them on magazine front pages as much??


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