Here’s why that student who argued against “canceling” Aunt Jemima was so embarrassingly wrong
Since it was announced that Quaker Oats will be rebranding Aunt Jemima products to remove the character based in racial stereotypes from their branding and packaging, certain groups of the population have been pretty up in arms about it.
Turning Point USA ambassador Reagan Escudé, who spoke at a Trump event earlier this week, actually tried to argue that the move was an insult to Aunt Jemima, who apparently achieved the “American Dream.”
“Aunt Jemima was canceled… She was the picture of the American dream. She was a freed slave who went on to be the face of the pancake syrup." — A student at Trump’s event on Tuesday pic.twitter.com/jgONhiXiza
— Peter Wade (@brooklynmutt) June 24, 2020
“Aunt Jemima was canceled,” Escudé said. “And if you didn’t know, Nancy Green, the original, first Aunt Jemima? She was a picture of the American dream. She was a freed slave who went on to be the face of the pancake syrup that we love and have in our pantries today.”
It’s utterly insulting to say that a freed slave achieved the “American dream,” because if not Green herself, then her ancestors, were brought to America against their will for the express purpose of being exploited. That’s not any kind of American dream. They didn’t want to be here. They didn’t want that life. Just because someone was eventually freed and made the best of it doesn’t make it less of a nightmare, and doesn’t erase all the harm done when that person gave years of labor in exchange for nothing.
But there’s even more about this that should make your blood boil. Before this week, did you even know the name of the woman in the racist caricature of a drawing on the front of Aunt Jemima packaging? It’s not Aunt Jemima, or even just Jemima, so the idea that that is any kind of legacy is also absurd.
Whitesplaining the American Dream. Some dream. Green did not die a millionaire. In fact, she could not live off the earnings she made from her portrayal of Aunt Jemima, and continued to work as a housekeeper until a few years before her death in 1923.— Maine Man (@Maine_NH) June 24, 2020
The Associated Press reports that the name of the character is actually from a minstrel song titled “Old Aunt Jemima.”
My favorite part is how white people are having tantrums and meltdowns over Aunt Jemima’s name & logo changing, yet there is no outrage or reaction to actual lives being lost. Your American Dream is slavery. #BlackLivesMattter— jen (@venusspice) June 24, 2020
The name of the woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green. But who even knows that? How can anyone even try to make the argument that having her picture on a syrup bottle made her famous or afforded her a better life?
The American dream is having to work as a maid till you die, and then having Quaker Oats say they won't help with a gravestone because "Aunt Jemima is fictional;"???— michael musto (@mikeymusto) June 24, 2020
As NPR reports, Green was a philanthropist and a ministry leader who is buried in an unmarked grave. Activists today are fighting for a grave marker for her, to help immortalize the actual good work she did in her life (none of which had anything to do with syrup). You think that’s the American dream? To be forgotten and ignored, except for a racist portrayal of your face on a syrup bottle that doesn’t even bear your real name?
The decision to remove the Aunt Jemima character from store shelves was the correct one. Nancy Green did not live the American dream. This is not the legacy she deserves.