'Aunt Jemima Is Next': Land O'Lakes Butter Quietly Retires Native American Imagery — And Right-Wing Hysteria, Naturally, Ensues
|The old Land O'Lakes label, featuring the Native American character Mia|
The label of Land O'Lakes dairy products featuring the familiar Native American "maiden" is one of the most iconic product images ever. It also represents the worst of cultural appropriation, perpetuates the myth of friendly relations between Native Americans and early European settlers, and even trivializes genocide, critics have charged.
And so, the character — whose name is Mia — has officially gone the way of the Frito Bandito, Sambo's and every other racist brand mascot down through the history of American capitalism.
As Modern Farmer noted, Land O'Lakes retired the old label (which had been around since 1928) very quietly — but that didn't stop the ferocious roar of complaints that followed, angrily denouncing the redesign as political correctness gone too far.
A few choice comments on Modern Farmer's story (many of which I have edited only to make them passably literate):
"This has gone too far. The subversiveness of a small group is dominating our society. Land O'Lakes should not fold so easily."
"PC BS is destroying the country. Seems everyone is offended by something, and if one out of 10 million feels slighted then things are changed. Sad sad sad."
"America is no more. Aunt Jemima is next."
Several readers were so pissed that they threatened to quit buying Land O'Lakes.
This is hardly the first time a company has been blasted for embracing Native stereotypes — the offenders include everything from pro sports (Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins) to potato chips (Yum Yum brand) to alcoholic beverages (Crazy Horse malt liquor), as Business Insider reports.
There was also that Victoria's Secret fuck-up a few years back, when a model donned a massive Native headdress for the retailer's annual fashion show — something Good Morning America invited me on to yack about. What I told GMA was that the brand obviously did the right thing in apologizing and agreeing to edit the offending outfit from the program before it aired on national television. My question was, who ever thought having Karlie Kloss strut down a runway in her underwear and a headdress was a good idea in the first place?
As with Reese Witherspoon's fashion line Draper James sponsoring a coronavirus-inspired dress giveaway aimed at honoring schoolteachers who in reality had almost no shot at actually winning a free dress, but a 100 percent chance of ending up on the label's email list, oftentimes brand marketers' hearts are in the right place, but their brains are slow to follow.
Brands have enough trouble lately than to go around embracing cultural stereotypes and purposely offending all good thinking people. And if the Charles Darwin crowd doesn't wish to join the rest of us in the 21st century, well, don't they have an anti-social distancing protest or some homophobic tents in Central Park to get to?