SUBSCRIBE NOW

SIGHT

Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Corporate America’s year of name changes and racial reckoning

Thomson Reuters Foundation

American baseball team, The Cleveland Indians, announced last week it would change its name after criticism from fans for using a moniker many deem racist.

The club joins several brands this year that have dropped racially-insensitive names – some centuries-old – following mass protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.

Here are four firms that have changed their names in 2020 and, either been applauded by civil rights experts, or probed on what comes next.

Lady Antebellum
In the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, country music group Lady Antebellum changed their name to Lady A, saying they “did not take into account” the name’s association with slavery in the United States.

“Antebellum” is a term used to describe culture in the Southern United States before the American Civil War when slavery was an accepted practice.

Aunt Jemima
PepsiCo Inc said on 17th June it would change the name and brand image of its Aunt Jemima pancake and syrup mix, which has long been considered racist.

The more than 130-year-old brand logo features an African-American woman named after a character from 19th-century minstrel shows and is rooted in a stereotype of a friendly black woman working for a white family.

“Reckoning with the weight of the past is often uncomfortable, but showing more consideration about these issues…could help move us toward a better and more genuinely democratic and united nation,” said Rich√© Richardson, an associate professor of African American literature at Cornell University.

In addition to the name change, the company said in June that it would give at least $5 million “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”

Uncle Ben’s
Hours after PepsiCo’s announcement, the makers of Uncle Ben’s rice, Mars Inc, declared that it would also change its name and brand logo, saying at the time that it stood “in solidarity with the Black community.”

The rice brand is known for its white-haired African-American man named after a Texas rice farmer.

Some observers welcomed the moves, but said they did not come soon enough.

Redskins
The National Football League’s Washington franchise dropped its “Redskins” team name in June, which is widely seen as a racial slur against Native Americans, after 87 years.

The club adopted the temporary moniker “Washington Football Team,” whereas Cleveland said last week that it will continue using the “Indians” name through the 2021 season and until a new one is identified.

In the future, organisations should proceed with caution before using symbolism from cultural minorities, Smithers said.

“Whether it’s governments, companies wanting to advertise its products, or professional sports teams, if you want to use Indigenous imagery and culture in your marketing you can’t simply steal it; you must consult,” said Smithers.

“That, to me, is the ethical minimum.”

 

Donate



sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.

Musings

TAKE PART IN THE SIGHT READER SURVEY!

We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.