I feel like the sheer dreariness of the product might tamp down the righty backlash to this particular example of a-wokening. Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth, Uncle Ben’s — all pleasurable eating experiences, and so Americans naturally cling to the mascots.
Cream of Wheat, though? Go ahead and cancel this guy. To hell with him for hawking such a bland product.
Imagine being so presumptuous as to wear a chef’s hat when your signature dish is Cream of Wheat.
He’s not canceled yet, says B&G Foods, the company that makes CoW, but it’s a fait accompli.
B&G Foods, Inc. (NYSE:BGS) today announced that we are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging. We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and 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. B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.
My first thought when I heard this news was that being a chef is perfectly dignified. Granted, the logo imagery dates to the late 19th century, a time when corporate America wasn’t known for recognizing the dignity of African-Americans, but just because the chef’s hat at the time denoted servant status doesn’t mean it needs to denote that today.
Then I looked more closely at the logo and realized that he’s still wearing a bowtie, which, yeah, is a little more evocative of servants than chefs. (Uncle Ben wears one too.) And then I read this: “The character was named ‘Rastus,’ a pejorative term for black men, and he was once depicted as a barely literate cook who did not know what vitamins were.”
He was indeed, it turns out. This site has a photo of a Cream of Wheat ad from 1921 and it’s, uh … hoo boy. It’s something. And it does feature the name “Rastus,” which is also something. And not something good.
He’s probably the single most racist character to get canceled this week.
I assume all of these brands are going to dispense with mascots altogether rather than “update” their imagery but some sort of amends will need to be made to signal their remorse at having stuck with such “problematic” logos for so long. There’s an obvious choice for a new corporate spokesman, one who’s apt to be a very hot commodity in American marketing and beyond this year, whose endorsement might singlehandedly provide absolution for past sins of racism. They need to sign Kaepernick.
He’s already seizing new opportunities for activism, in fact:
We’re excited to announce our founder, @kaepernick7, will be the newest Board Member @medium. In addition to this, #KaepernickPublishing partners with Medium to further our mission uplifting voices of our communities. pic.twitter.com/FQYYNdTQcP
— Kaepernick Publishing (@KaepernickPub) June 18, 2020
We know he’s open to corporate sponsorship so long as it serves the cause of social justice. Imagine an ad where the anthem plays, Old Glory flies, Kaepernick appears onscreen and takes a knee, and then he reaches down for a steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat and digs in.
Poignant. Socially conscious. Tasty. Well, as tasty as Cream of Wheat can be.
Exit question: When does this sudden surge of canceling controversial mascots jump from African-American imagery to all racial imagery? Chiquita Banana and the Washington Redskins are hanging in there for now, but for how long?