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The Taste of Subservience

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/further/2020/06/17/taste-subservience

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Racist? Much or maybe not. Cripes. I’m generally in agreement with Abby, but she can really be a zealot calling for the hangman sometimes. This needs more nuance. I’m just hearing “shrill.”
I go back and forth on this and can see it from various perspectives.
What about Chef Boy-ar-dee? (a real person, different spelling same sound) Betty Crocker? And invented person) Jimmy Dean? Famous Amos? Sports stars on Wheaties?
Mrs. Butterworth looks possibly Dutch, definitely matronly. Maid or housewife is hard to tell.
Aunt Jemima’s (another fictional person) appearance was changed from the mammy look a long time ago and given a modern look. Same with Uncle Ben’s.
Then there is the chef on Cream of Wheat who looks like various chefs I worked with in restaurants decades ago - same outfit white or black - so is it only when a black image is used that this is disparaging? But if we were to put a white image (Chef Boyardi?) its a CEO chef?
Who says, and where is the law of nature which declares that on food packages a black person’s image is and can only be a mark of degradation. But a white person on the same package would be just fine?
Same with someone wielding a mop or broom or serving dishes. In the small business world I grew up in that was just as likely to mean you were seeing the owner at work. And in the productions I’ve photographed it might be the producer or director or choreographer clearing the stage and cleaning the Marley. Or me.
The meaning in this article is just off for me. It is as if black images on a package can only be some sort of servants. Not in my world.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been around long enough to have seen the old image versions. They were not great. But they also don’t define and don’t limit anyone, or shouldn’t. I still cringe at the current use of the word “queer” because of the friends I knew who were so hurt by it for so long. But this is a new day for that word, and while I avoid it because of my memories, I realize that “queer” has been owned by the LGBTQ community. They turned it around. I’'m still not comfortable with it but I acknowledge the new (and proud) usage.
To me the modern pictures of these products are similar. This is a new world of owners who are not white. Look at the chefs on public TV. The irony for me, as white, was that 40+ years ago when those product images were being updated because they were considered offensive, I was working in restaurants with the assumption it would be my career - waiter, bartender, maybe manager. (now called essential). (Yes, it was considered a low-end, all-we-will-let-you have job in those days - I’m not forgetting, just noting the ironies)
If you took any of those pictures on the food products in the picture in a regular frame it would be a nice picture. Certainly there is nothing in those images by themselves which is demeaning.
And, please, don’t try to make a case about Chef Boy-ar-dee and Italian images. Is it really different? Julia Child? (though I don’t know any product she is on except, possibly cookbooks.)


The First Nations People continue their fight too against all the use of their culture by the dominant, colonizing class in mascots and names of military hardware.


I learned last night that Native Americans are disproportionately killed by law enforcement more than any other minority.


I didn’t even know that Mrs. Buttersworth was black - the formerly glass (now oil-based unrecyclable polypropylene) bottle is transparent . “XXX-worth” is not a common black-American surname.

The new Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben look nothing like the unflattering servant stereotypes (obsolete stereotypes - the modern racist stereotypes of black Americans are far more vile) of the past. Why do white people think they are doing something against racism by by disappearing images of people of African descent from products? Was there a clamor from black activists to remove them? I suspect if it was it was way, way down the list.

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This issue is an offshoot of the “cultural appropriation” craziness and the “cancel culture” craziness whereby people from group “X” cannot open a restaurant or any other sort of business with a group “Y” or group “Z” menu/theme without the real possibility of being labelled a cultural appropriator and being summarily cancelled on social media.

This is a very real threat to open dialogue within our society between different cultures. It creates fear and fractures debate.

Also, I do not understand how there could be a thing called cultural appropriation in the United States since we are the melting pot, non-homogeneous, living together and experiencing multiple cultures within our society. The sum of the whole makes us stronger than one - that is the point.

I love pizza, I love tacos, I love thai food, I love hamburgers, and I love pancakes with real maple syrup (canadien). Am I a cultural appropriator every time I make a “yummy” noise when I eat these foods?

Spare me…

Between you and Atlas, I’m hearing that fragrant stench of DENIAL.
Or should I say SYSTEMIC…

“they also don’t define and don’t limit anyone, or shouldn’t.”…really…ya think?

And Atlas…“Cancel Culture”…man you and ivanka really have a lock on cultural memes.

When the cigar store Indian stands affectionately in front of the store and the little black boy, front lawn ornament " is just holding a lantern"…one really has to ask…

Are You Guys Tone Deaf?


That is true.

That Onion story was featured in this article.

You know, this article you didn’t bother to read.

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When I googled, just to check my memories I found lots of pictures of earlier bottles and images in which she is clearly a white woman with very yellow hair. And that remembered Dutch look or maybe just a matronly look.
It is the clear bottle configuration which makes her look brown and that is because of the color of the syrup.

I didn’t even know The Onion was still around. I thought it went out of business when reality began satirizing itself. A little like the observation Tom Lehrer famously never made but it sounds as if he could have: He stopped writing and performing satirical songs when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize because there was nothing more left to satirize.

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Lehrer didn’t say he’d stop writing and performing, but he did say that “political satire became obsolete” when Kissinger was awarded the peace prize.

That is certainly true in Canada, though of course there have been cases involving Black people and other people of colour.

But any time I’ve had syrup (not often) it was always real maple.

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I live in Michigan. Plenty of real maple syrup here.
Of course, it costs a lot more than corn syrup. But it’s worth every penny.

Good to hear that. Of course I’m familiar with maple syrup from Vermont and the north of NY State, but didn’t know that maples were tapped in Michigan, perhaps also Wisconsin?

Other than the fact that they are sweet, there is no relationship between pure maple syrup and doctored, chemical-laden corn syrup (which is a bad kind of sugar for the human body to begin with. And you don’t really need to use a lot.

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That’s it. I should have looked it up and not have trusted my memory. Thanks.