Uncle Ben's To 'Evolve' Its Image Amid Concerns Of Racial Stereotyping
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The packaging for the brand has featured has an elderly black man - called 'Uncle Ben' - since the 1940s. Now, in light of moves to try and combat racial biases in the wake of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, its parent company Mars has said it'll be making changes to the brand including its 'visual brand identity'.
In a statement Mars said: "As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices.
"As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and to the voices of our associates worldwide, we recognise that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.
"We don't yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities.
"Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the black community, our associates and our partners in the fight for social justice.
"We know to make the systemic change needed, it's going to take a collective effort from all of us - individuals, communities and organisations of all sizes around the world."
We have a responsibility to help end racial injustices. We're listening to consumers, especially in the Black community, and our Associates. We don't yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we will evolve Uncle Ben's visual brand identity. pic.twitter.com/n0e1pZ75OF
- Uncle Ben's USA (@UncleBens) June 17, 2020
According to the Uncle Ben's website, the logo and name are based on a black Texan rice farmer known as 'Uncle Ben'. Frank Brown, the maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant, agreed to pose as the face of Uncle Ben for the painting which became the company's logo.
The decision to 'evolve' the brand comes after Quaker said it will be changing the name and image on its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup.
The character of Aunt Jemima has its origins in the racial stereotype of an older black woman working for a white family as a nanny or servant.
In a statement, Quaker Foods North America said: "We recognise Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype.
"As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations."
Both brands have come under fire in the past because 'white Southerners once used 'uncle' and 'aunt' as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.,' The New York Times reports.