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The owners of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s, along with others, have ceased using those brand names because they represent racism. When will KFC get rid of their icon that represents an antebellum plantation owner? When will the Washington Redskins change their name?

 

Bob Giolitto

 

20 comments

JustaTaxpayer June 21, 2020 at 7:32 pm

When will it end?

Should Quaker Oats rebrand? How about White Castle? Then again, there’s the White House. Uh-oh!! Then there’s the old rap band, NWA. Go find out what the N stands for. Ever listen to Chris Rock’s comedy? Uh-oh. He should be silenced. As someone with Irish history, if we’re up in arms about the Chiefs or Redskins, we sure better shut down The Fighting Irish. How dare they? Maybe Mrs Butterworths should be bottled in a disgendered persons body. Maybe Pat from SNL. Oh, as a person of Irish descent, I’d also like some reparations.

John ONeill June 21, 2020 at 9:29 pm

Instead of names let’s just use numbers. But then again there may be numbers out there that offend some. Just a thought.

Stuart Wells June 22, 2020 at 6:44 am

How about taking Hoover’s name off the FBI building? There was no one who did more to damage the cause of racial equality and civil rights than old J. Edgar. He had an entire federal agency at his disposal and his “special agents” could, and did, act illegally and secretly, under the pretense of law enforcement, and then lie about it under oath. He employed the same tactics against the Viet Nam era peace movement, the American Indian Movement and, earlier, against the labor movement.
Stuart Wells

Steve Mann June 22, 2020 at 9:44 am

Honestly, I never thought of anything else but pancakes when I saw an Aunt Jemima package. Not the case with Uncle Ben’s.. I thought of rice when I saw that.

A great big participation trophy for all the geniuses who come up with other American icons that now offend them.

Cris Bowers June 22, 2020 at 9:46 am

I’m very happy to see commercial icons with racist roots finally being pulled off the market, and I think the appellation “Redskin” is despicable. But in the interest of accuracy, the familiar face of KFC does not represent an antebellum slave owner. It’s the face of “Colonel” Harland Sanders, an unsuccessful lawyer and businessman who opened a gas station and restaurant in the 1930s. He was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in 1935. Using a pressure-fryer, which he invented, and a “secret recipe,” his business took off. After opening over 500 franchises he sold the company in 1964 for $2 million. The new ownership used him as their “brand ambassador” for decades until his death. Sanders was a colorful character and no angel, and I leave it to anyone who cares to delve further into his history.

“Colonel” is an honorary, not a military title. A Google search revealed that Kentucky Colonel is an honor bestowed by the governor of Kentucky in recognition of noteworthy achievements. Current Kentucky Colonels include Wayne Gretzky, Whoopi Goldberg, and Betty White. Go figure.

I also found what appears to be an urban legend that Sanders stole his chicken recipe from a black woman called “Mrs Childress.” The story goes that he paid her $1200 (or tried to) for the recipe and made millions while she died, unrecognized, in poverty. However,the picture of the woman purported to be Childress came from a 1920s racist-flavored magazine ad for vegetable shortening.

Sanders does not seem to have been a bigot himself, and while he was a conservative, he supported charities, including black churches, which he sometimes attended.

That said, I have no personal interest in defending Harland Sanders, his clothing choice, or his chicken. Nor am I defending today’s KFC, (which dropped the longer name in an attempt to sound healthier). I am all for doing away with racist marketing, Confederate flags, and dethroning Confederate “heroes.” American society has a long way to go in getting rid of racist images and rooting out internal biases. But while we’re cleaning the skeletons out of our attics, we do need to be accurate. KFC may be responsible for clogged arteries, but unless deeper research reveals otherwise, it does not appear be glorifying racist tropes.

Niz June 22, 2020 at 9:53 am

I think it is all about ones perception, if you think it is racist, then to you it is. Anyhoo lots of undocumented that cannot read, write or speak English rely on the images on the brands to purchase their favorite / preferred items. I know my mom and dad did until they went to rice school in Stamford and learned English. As for the elderly, images on brands is also helpful, for various reasons. But hey why should we be considerate of the consumers that are elderly or undocumented?

Joe June 22, 2020 at 11:35 am

The KFC “icon” was a real man named Harlan Sanders.

Sanders was never a plantation owner. His dad was a farmer and butcher and his mom worked in a cannery.

The title “colonel” is bestowed upon a person by the state of Kentucky for contributions to society,
remarkable deeds or outstanding service to the community.

Harlan Sanders began as a farm hand and eventually owned a roadside restaurant and gas station
on the highway until they suddenly moved the highway and his restaurant went broke
and he was 65 years old!

So he drove his special pressure cooker pot and fried chicken recipe to restaurants to taste and if they
wanted to use his recipe they would have to pay him a nickel per chicken as a royalty.

And it became a worldwide success.

So, it’s not good to try and stir up trouble by making up things about people that you don’t know.

Victor Cavallo June 22, 2020 at 1:03 pm

The name Yale University has to go. It was founded and named after a slave trader, Elihu Yale. The name Columbia University has to go. The name is derived from Christopher Columbus. The name Princeton University has to go because it evokes white royalty and white supremacy. And Harvard has to be torn down because some of it was built with slave labor. I’m not finished.

Cris Bowers June 22, 2020 at 2:10 pm

In reading comments by people who are upset by the removal of racial stereotypes, I think they might be missing something. It’s the willingness to think beyond what the change means to you personally. Most people don’t like change, especially if we’ve become attached to something. But not everything means the same thing to all people.

When I was a little (white) girl I just figured Aunt Jemima was a good cook. I connected her with pancakes…and I LOVE pancakes. Therefore, Aunt J. gave me the warm fuzzies. But then I learned the history behind the image. A company using a symbol of oppression for profit…a harking back to the good old days. Of slavery. And I also learned that Auntie J did not give black folks the warm fuzzies. More like a slap in the face.

It took me many years to truly understand what’s wrong with Aunt Jemima. I thought black people were being over-sensitive. I didn’t want to give up my fuzzies for something that happened long ago.

George Floyd wasn’t long ago. If you really sit down and think about it, there’s a direct line running from my beloved pancake lady to George Floyd’s death. I couldn’t have made that connection 30 or 40 years ago. I hope that wisdom comes with age. I know wisdom comes with listening to people about their own experiences, about their history, about the reality they face every day.

We don’t have the right to tell people that they shouldn’t be offended by something we don’t understand. There is no rule saying we must judge each other’s pain. My hope right now is that if we don’t understand something about another person, we put ourselves in their shoes for a while.

John Levin June 22, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Thank you Cris Bowers and “Joe” for shedding light and sharing truth. And thank you, NancyOnNorwalk, for publishing Bob Giolitto’s short letter and inviting this conversation. And thank you, Bob Giolitto, for getting that conversation started here.

BOB GIOLITTO June 22, 2020 at 4:42 pm

To Cris Bowers and Joe, thank you for your history and truth. Note though, that I said “represents”; years of consumer research has verified that consumers have, however inaccurately, identified the KFC icon as that of a plantation owner, and plantation owners owned slaves. To Niz, thank you for making your point; if it’s taken by those offended as racist, then it is. To Victor, at the very least the full history of people like Yale and Columbus should be taught, including that Yale and countless others owned slaves, and that Columbus was part of the beginning of stealing land and resources, and the destruction, of a peaceful people.

Norwalk parent June 22, 2020 at 5:42 pm

We now officially live in a society where people tell YOU what YOU should be offended by.
I call it the “outrage” culture. As in, “you should be outraged that…”

JustaTaxpayer June 22, 2020 at 7:35 pm

How many blacks people were shot and killed this past weekend? Where’s BLM in protesting? Where’s the media? Nowhere to be found.

Let’s worry about pancakes. Did you know that the grandkids of Aunt Jemima do not agree with this decision ?

So, should we change the Fighting Irish name? What’s the equivalent Italian stereotype? Personally, I’m not so offended. Irish men are the last folks who can take a joke. “An Irishman walks into a bar”. I’m thankful for the thicker skin.

Paul Cantor June 22, 2020 at 9:02 pm

Thank you Chris Bowers for pointing out that there is a direct link between your beloved pancake lady and the Murder of George Floyd and so many others. We need to stop whitewashing the history of our country so today’s school children can teach their children just how powerful that link was back when their parents and grandparents were alive.

Banks June 23, 2020 at 5:44 am

Forms of modern day slavery still exists. One day we will all be erased from history and machines will fully manufacture textiles and smart phones people use. Athletes with merchandising deals such as Lebron will be remembered for benefiting off oppressed labor. The US can tear down a statue of Saddam and cheer while looking for WMD’s, but we’re conflicted over removing statues of people who owned slaves as property. At the very least these statues should go in a museum so the conflicted story can still be told.

John ONeill June 23, 2020 at 9:08 am

@JustaTaxpayer: Regarding Irish jokes and Note Dame. The ability to take a joke is something we are all proud of. I would guess everyone who reads this column has laughed at an Irish joke or shamed the stereotype of Irish drinking. I’d like to propose a toast and drink to our thick, but emotional skin!!! Regarding Note Dame – Simply the finest university on the planet. Any student who is accepted and turns it down is missing out on a great experience. Some have wanted to change the nickname. Those few are politically correct fools. We are proud of our heritage warts and all. There are some who believe we should hide one’s warts or shortcomings. They’re also fools.

JustaTaxpayer June 23, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Careful folks. We may be ok with these changes being called for and tear down monuments.

This weekend the leaders of BLM were calling for the removal of any depiction of Jesus or Mary as being white including stained glass and statuaries. Imagine if we have to guard iconic churches in Norwalk such at St Marys and St Paul’s. This is all a slippery slope, a dangerous slippery slope.

Alexis June 23, 2020 at 10:08 pm

Chris, your comments are thoughtful and insightful – thank you. It’s a great attribute to be able to see things through the lens of others, particularly when you haven’t lived the same experience. Listening and lifetime learning is a wonderful thing.

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