Pancakes Aren’t An Injustice—Stop Cancelling History

Guido Gonzalez/PantherNOW

Damielys Duarte/Assistant Opinion Director

The Black Lives Matter movement has resurged and with it we have come to question the very foundation of our most iconic current pop culture benchmarks. From traditional food brands to present-day streaming platforms, activists are coming for all of the “racist undertones” in our art and entertainment, regardless of historical significance. 

It began with Aunt Jemima. As civil unrest rose to fever pitches in the last few weeks in response to the death of George Floyd, many activists for the group have called for the removal of all racist propaganda that continues to promote the concept of slavery and racial inferiority, starting with the beloved breakfast syrup.

Quaker Oats has submitted to popular demand and announced they will begin making changes to the syrup’s name and imaging in light of its “racial stereotype,” which depicts a heavy-set black woman wearing the garb of a kitchen maid and a kerchief commonly worn by slaves. 

While the depiction on the bottles is reminiscent of the “Mammy” role black women played in white households during slavery, the families of the two women who inspired the company’s branding nearly 130 years ago claim that this is an injustice.

Lillian Richard and Anna Short Harrington were two women hired by Quaker Oats to portray the character in the 1920’s and 30’s. Harrington toured the nation in her costume serving pancakes. According to her great-grandson Larnell Evans Sr., “this woman served all those people, and it was after slavery… She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job… How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”

Vera Harris, family historian and great-niece to Richard, recounted that “promoting the brand around Texas was considered an ‘honorable job,’” adding that the “Richard family was proud of her.” In addition, Richard was one of the first black women to get a job, thus making the removal of her legacy devastating to her family.

“We just don’t want my aunt’s legacy — what she did making an honest living at the time — to be wiped away,” Harris said. “Her story should not be erased from history.”

The current concept of inclusivity is ineffective at easing racial tensions and is instead resulting in a hypersensitive focus on racial representation where inclusion is misinterpreted and exclusion is bigotry at its finest. 

A century after Aunt Jemima first appeared on the condiment bottle, the image is now considered racist and unfit to be seen in grocery stores. 

The precedent this type of image censorship is creating is mixed and unhealthy.  As companies strive to  include more racial diversity in their branding and product development, they must now also keep in mind not to reference racial stereotypes during the process of inclusion — which is just about anything at this point!

Therefore, the current concept of inclusivity is ineffective at easing racial tensions and is instead resulting in a hypersensitive focus on racial representation where inclusion is misinterpreted and exclusion is bigotry at its finest. 

This can be seen with HBO’s decision to temporarily remove the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” from its streaming platform, claiming it shows “ethnic and racial prejudices.” It was stated that the movie would be re-uploaded with a “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions” — an ironic concept, as Hattie McDaniel (who portrayed the slave Mammy), became the first African American to win an Oscar despite her role in the “racist” film.

The addition of the discussion is not inherently bad in itself. It’s the increasing use of political correctness that is so dangerous to our culture and freedom of artistic expression. If you have to explain to an audience that a 1939 film depicting the historical event of the Civil War contains racial undertones and that slavery and racism is not tolerated in our modern society, then we have bigger problems. 

We are obviously aware of America’s past and since then we have certainly come a long way from plantations and slave trade. Hence, there is no need to shame the works of our past which highlight the human struggle and stand as a testament to the human thought process at the time. 

Like many other brands and popular entertainment seeking to remove the subtle stain of racial antagonism in their products and shows, they seem to be missing the very real point that they are erasing history. Removing historic racial stereotypes will certainly not resolve current racial tensions. Instead, it will erase the evolution society has made in regards to civil rights. 

At the end of the day we cannot ignore the past, but we can instead focus on embracing the future.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Have questions or comments for our writers? Send an email to with your name and the name of the column in the subject line.

Be the first to comment on "Pancakes Aren’t An Injustice—Stop Cancelling History"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.