This week it was announced that after 130 years, Quaker Oats will be dropping the name Aunt Jemima from its pancake mix. Recognizing that the name was easily associated with racism (for the first 100 years a woman dressed like Hattie McDaniel's character from "Gone With the Wind") was emblazened on its box. In 1989 that character lost her kerchief and slave attire. Still the damage was done. For too many years, the package had the picture of a slave decorating its mixes and syrups. So in light of increased awareness and racial sensitivity, the brand is done.
Much has been made of the decision of many institutions in the US including NASCAR banning the rebel flag, "The Stars and Bars." One driver, not known for his winning ways, Ray Ciccarelli, retired from driving saying that if he could not fly the flag of his heritage, he would not drive. The fact that the the rebel flag only flew over the South for 4 years and that the South fell in 1865 seemed lost on him.
Over the years there have been cries that we should not use racial stereotypes for nicknames for team sports. Teams such as the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins, the Edmonton Eskimos, and the Atlanta Braves are just a few of the clubs who have been accused of being less than sensitive with their team names. People have asked them to choose names which don't offend a group.
Some people feel that this name changing is ridiculous. The names have been around for years. Who could be offended by a bottle of syrup? What does it matter that the Chicago Black Hawks have a native warrior on their jerseys? These names have been around for years they don't mean anything.
But the thing is names do mean something. Long after the scars of physical abuse fade, the effects of verbal abuse still linger. Symbols of racism and the old slave days are a reminder that life still is not fair for so many people. The use of a team name Indian is a way of demonstrating that we equate native peoples with things like Lions, Tigers, and Bears- things not human. These brands, these symbols, these team names are not just meaningless words. These words, logos, flags, symbols that hurt others must stop being used. It is not political correctness gone mad. It is a recognition of justice. Blessings.