We grew up with these brands, we never thought anything of them other than Uncle Ben meant rice & Aunt Jemima was an insult in addition to a pancake brand. Today, Quaker Oats is in the news because the family of one of the women depicted on the pancake brand is demanding to be paid for her being jilted out of the money the company has earned by using her likeness.
Quaker Oats is saying that they can’t find the contracts that were negotiated for the use of her likeness therefore in their minds, they don’t exist so the family is not entitled to any payment. Ok, why did this catch my attention? First because of the irony, QUAKER oats….Quaker. What? You don’t get it? Alright, here it is, first of all Quakers were the first vanilla folks to condemn slavery so I find it quite ironic that a company that has an old fashioned Quaker as their symbol is looking for a contract that was written in 1893. Not 1983…1893 with a black woman who had just been freed from slavery! Black folks were considered to be lower than dogs so are you kidding me, they are looking for a contract that was negotiated with a former slave? Quakers taking advantage of slaves, yeah, I had to write about that because it’s the kind of shit that comedy skits are born from.
What does rice have to do with this story? Uncle Ben was another one that was taken advantage of, fortunately, he was dead & didn’t realize it….but I can’t help but wonder if his family was compensated for his name being stolen for a brand that is a household name. I will be honest, I am not a reparations minded person, however, I am a business minded person. If I find that you have used my photo to profit & you didn’t share that with me or told me you would and still didn’t, I can file a lawsuit. It happens every single day but this is a new era, its not the one that was in place when these brands put these faces on their boxes or named them. These companies made billions of dollars on the products bearing the likeness of former slaves. People who they knew basically had no rights which is part of the reason they used them. Tell me some vanilla Southern Grandma couldn’t have done just as good a job on the box of pancakes as that black woman, go ahead I dare you. Right after you say something crazy like that, I’ll ask you who the hell is Paula Dean? Yeah, that’s what I thought. These people were chosen for the express reason that they could not sue & were accustomed to not getting what was rightfully theirs from the vanilla people during the era they lived in.
I don’t think this really boils down to chocolate and vanilla, I think it really boils down to right and wrong. While Pepsico has only owned the Quaker Oats brand for a short time & should not be penalized for its predecessors wrong doing, the fact of the matter is, this family should be compensated. I am pretty sure their lives would have been completely different had Nancy Green (that’s the 1st Aunt Jemima by the way) had a fair business deal. Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Quaker Oats man was a model dressed in a Quaker outfit….I wonder why? Oh, wait, could it be because they knew they would have to negotiate a fair contract with anyone that they wanted to use their likeness to build a brand?