A TikTok video is likely responsible for the recent news that the Aunt Jemima brand is finally being retired. This adds to a list of brands and institutions making changes as a reaction to worldwide protests for racial equality.
While the protests and statements we continue to see may have been triggered after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police was caught on camera, the impact of the movement has spread unfathomably wide, encompassing essentially every racist structure in America (and a few other countries). We’ve seen major changes for companies like Reddit, Nike, Airbnb, and Uber. There have even been pro-equality statements from organizations like the NFL, which famously opposed former star player Colin Kaepernick’s protests against racial injustice for years.
The reach of this particular moment is now impacting breakfast, and it’s possible the catalyst was a TikTok video. Posted by user @singkirbysing just a few days ago, the viral video depicts a woman explaining the history of Aunt Jemima, succinctly detailing its racist roots. The woman, a musical artist known as Kirby, ends the video by dumping a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix down the drain while saying “Black lives matter, people… even over breakfast.” It turns out, Kirby’s conclusion was accurate as Quaker Oats, owner of the Aunt Jemima brand, announced shortly thereafter that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand and its logo after 130 years, reports CNN Business.
Kirby’s video likely the biggest reason for the change at Quaker Oats. Once it moved from TikTok to Twitter, #AuntJemima became a trending topic within hours and the pressure was on for the brand immediately. However, numerous op-eds have been written on this exact topic for decades and the brand has always been aware of its racist past. The Aunt Jemima website even includes an “Our History” page that conveniently leaves out the detail that it was inspired by a woman who was born a slave. The brand’s reaction is a great example of how this version of the Black Lives Matter movement is dramatically more effective than any iteration we’ve seen previously, and if there’s one explanation for why that is, the answer may be social media.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have existed for longer than the Black Lives Matter hashtag, but the cultural shift on social media from text to video seems to have given the movement its “critical mass” moment. A short, accessible video like Kirby’s is now capable of picking up millions of views within hours, educating people while pointing out the flaws in well-established brands. Following the Aunt Jemima announcement, Uncle Ben’s also announced upcoming changes to its brand due to its own history of racially insensitive marketing. It’s unfortunate that it takes online, public shaming to convince centuries-old brands that racism shouldn’t be an avenue for profit, but it’s also inspiring to see social platforms forcing these kinds of long-overdue changes.
More: Google, Twitter, & YouTube’s BLM Support Faces Backlash Due To Racism On Platforms
Sources: Kirby, CNN Business