When Land-O-Lakes began to remove the Native American woman from its products, they talked around why, only saying it was to better represent their farmers and customers. Most people suspect it was also in response to activists claiming the image was racist, and perhaps the American Psychological Association’s Fake Science claiming such images have “a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children.”
Turns out the artist, Patrick DesJarlait was a Native American himself. He painted the iconic woman, named Mia, to represent a real native. His son, who has protested other images and icons that he felt weren’t a positive reflection of natives, also confirms Mia is not racist or a stereotype.
He also noted,
Mia’s vanishing has prompted a social media meme: ‘They Got Rid of The Indian and Kept the Land.’ That isn’t too far from the truth. Mia, the stereotype that wasn’t, leaves behind a landscape voided of identity and history. For those of us who are American Indian, it’s a history that is all too familiar.
The madness continues (6/20/19)…
Quaker Foods is removing the image of the woman from its Aunt Jemima brands, stating, “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
However, the original Aunt Jemima on the products was freed slave Nancy Green. Green has been called a “trailblazing corporate model,” a “talented entrepreneur” and “transitional symbol.” Green also “transformed Aunt Jemima from a strictly racist, commercial cipher into a symbol of friendliness and hospitality.”
Just as with Land ‘O Lakes erasing the Native American woman from their products — even though she was drawn by a Native American to honor his ancestors — more companies are choosing to give in to false claims of racism. “Aunt Jemima” began as a racial stereotype, but symbols can change, and Green changed it.
Mia, the native woman, wasn’t a real person, but Nancy Green was. Both, however, have had their stories whitewashed from society.
Isn’t that ironic?