June 18, 2020 | 9:55am | Updated June 18, 2020 | 11:23am
Is Cream of Wheat next in line for a social-justice makeover?
Cream of Wheat is now re-evaluating its black mascot following announcements by Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s that they would overhaul their controversial imaging amid online criticism. The move comes in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests over the deaths of George Floyd and other black men while in police custody.
“We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image,” said B&G Foods in an emailed statement, adding that they “are initiating an immediate review” of the cereal brand’s packaging.
The Cream of Wheat parent company is referring to their 130-year-old beaming cook logo, which was based on Rastus, a black caricature that appeared in minstrel shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reports CNN. The stereotypical chef was portrayed in early Cream of Wheat ads as a slow-witted former slave, and the name Rastus still has racial connotations today.
Since then, the image has been updated to make it less offensive, however, experts claim that the racist undertones remain.
“You still are referencing the place of black people as servants, as your chefs,” said Naa Oyo A. Kwate, associate professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University, with regards to the logo’s facelift. “You can still draw on that legacy of what slavery meant and what black people’s natural position is supposed to be — your own personal slave in a box.”
Many social-media activists shared her sentiment. “They tried to disguise the racism by putting a chef’s cap on him [Rastus],” one wrote on Twitter. “Um, no!”
Cream of Wheat claimed in the statement, “we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.”
In doing so, they’re following in the footsteps of Quaker’s Aunt Jemima and Mars’ Uncle Ben’s, which have also pledged to update their controversial logos following social-media backlash. Meanwhile, Conagra’s syrup-selling subsidiary Mrs. Butterworth’s is also considering giving their mascot a makeover to acquiesce to critic demands.
Breakfast brands aren’t the only ones under scrutiny amid the online uproar. Police shows “Live PD” and “Cops” were both yanked off the air last week following a fierce internet backlash by Black Lives Matter supporters.