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America Inc overhauls brands in support of BLM

Products like Aunt Jemima are going through a branding and advertising overhaul as companies respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports on America Inc’s efforts to address and eliminate brand names and imagery that reflect America’s racist past.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In response to the global Black Lives Matter movement, spurred by the killing of George Floyd at the knee of a White Minneapolis police officer, there is a renewed effort to eliminate names and brands that reflect this country's racist past. Music groups and some popular companies are already reacting by overhauling their brands. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.

  • Christopher Booker:

    On Thursday, the Grammy award-winning country-music group, the Dixie Chicks, released a new song and video called March March –

    The video – a patchwork highlighting political activism – ends with a request, that we acknowledge and say the names of those killed by the police.

    But that's not all that's in the video – with song came comes with announcement – the band has changed its name –

    The trio dropping the "dixie" – a nickname often associated with the confederate south – and now simply going by The Chicks. The group posted on their website "we want to meet this moment."

    The band's name change comes after a series of companies announced some of America's most well known products were discarding names and images considered racially offensive. Companies like Quaker Oats, who said they would be rebranding its Aunt Jemima products.

    But not everyone has welcomed the change.

    On Tuesday, during president Donald Trump's rally in Arizona a recent college graduate decried the rebranding.

  • Reagan Escudé:

    Aunt Jemima was cancelled. And might I mention how privileged we are as a nation if our biggest concern is a bottle of pancake syrup.

  • Christopher Booker:

    To David Pilgrim this type of reaction is, in no way, surprising. As the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia held in Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan – Pilgrim says he understands why people might feel this way.

  • David Pilgrim:

    If a person comes to the museum and they see a lynching tree or they see a heavily caricatured object, most people just look at that and think, you know, that's awful. But when you have something like a mammy cookie jar or Aunt Jemima. And they think there's nothing racial about this, there's certainly nothing racist about this. It's just a food product or they think this is just something that reminds me of good times that I spent with my family.

  • Christopher Booker:

    But for Pilgrim, such a feeling does not excuse the continued use of the character.

  • David Pilgrim:

    If you ever came to the Jim Crow Museum and you look at the hundreds, if not thousands of images of mammies, including the commercial mammies, you'll notice they all, or almost all were smiling. Well, there's nothing wrong with smiling, but. But you are reinforcing the idea that African-Americans, in this case, African-American women, are happy being servants.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Aunt Jemima gots its name from a minstrel song popular over 130 years ago.

    In the early 1890s, Nancy Green – a former slave was hired to become the face of the brand,

    She would be the first of many Aunt Jemimas.

  • David Pilgrim:

    When I look at Aunt Jemima, I'm already looking at 100 years of Aunt Jemima branding. So, you know, the one today looks like my aunt. But the ones over the years, I mean, the first one was absolutely brutal. I mean, it's just an old fashioned caricature.

  • Christopher Booker:

    And Quaker Oats North America, the maker of Aunt Jemima, agrees. In their press release announcing the rebranding, the company says: "we recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough."

    But the corporate message is not resonating with everyone. Posts on Facebook and other social media platforms have echoed the sentiment that came from this week's Trump Rally.

  • David Pilgrim:

    You know, I've seen people on, on, on social media saying, you know, like, what does this have to do with anything? The justice movement which was set off by the brutal murder of George Floyd has forced all of us to reexamine the role of racism in the larger society and in ourselves, addressing Uncle Bens or Aunt Jemima, they're a part of the same problem. This is about a nation beginning the process of coming to grips with some parts of its past which have morphed into the present.

  • Christopher Booker:

    How do you think we will view Aunt Jemima 20 or 30 years from now?

  • David Pilgrim:

    I applaud the companies that are having the difficult discussions and actually changing their brands. But they should have changed them. I mean, if, if your brand has a racist slur in the title. If, if the title itself is a slur or if it caricatures a group of people, then you should be having these discussions. And I would hope that you would be making these changes. I don't want to live in a country where it's illegal for someone to use a racist brand or a sexist brand or brand that is homophobic. But I want to live in a society where we're mature enough to not do it. Where a company is pressured or otherwise comes to the conclusion that this is not how we want to represent ourselves.

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