Unlike Aunt Jemima And Uncle Ben’s, It Turns Out Cream Of Wheat Has Actual Racist Roots
As rampant SJW cancellations hit brands like Aunt Jemima, B&G Foods announced Cream of Wheat's branding review but its Chef Rastus has a much darker past.
Weeks of anti-racism and Black Lives Matter protests across the country are making companies rethink their product branding. And mounting pressure on social media prompted many brands to check their racial stereotyping. First, Aunt Jemima was targeted. Then it was announced that Uncle Ben’s rice and Mrs. Butterworth’s products would get a makeover. Now, B&G Foods has announced that Cream of Wheat will be reviewed for rebranding its chef’s image.
There’s More To Cream Of Wheat’s Story
Cream of Wheat has been a mainstay for breakfast for generations. It has been one of my personal favorites for as long as I can remember.
I never thought twice about the happy chef on the box. Our generation wasn’t exposed to the Cream Of Wheat chef’s origins or the brand’s early marketing campaigns. But there is actually much more to the story.
I had no idea and I bet you didn’t either. So let’s start at the beginning.
The breakfast porridge was created in 1893 and was a quick hit. It is so simple, yet delicious as it can be dressed up in different ways. Cream of Wheat can feel like a warm hug on a cold morning.
You’re not alone if you felt that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s knee jerk cancellations were ridiculous. Especially when even Aunt Jemima’s real-life great-grandson found the erasure of Anna Short Harrington’s legacy infuriating, calling it an ‘injustice’ to his family.
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But, as companies contemplate their longstanding marketing tactics, we’re finding that Cream Of Wheat has a darker side to its history. One that most people will not know and which makes this rebranding push feel quite different.
Cream Of Wheat Chef Imagery And Meaning
“We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” A statement released by B&G read.
“B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
Today, we might look at the friendly face on the Cream of Wheat box and see a chef. In the modern era, chefs are often celebrity types – think Emeril, Rachel Ray, and even Gordon Ramsey.
However, this was not the case with this marketing campaign. While I tend to brush off such claims of marketing racism, this one is hard to ignore after learning more.
Meet Cream Of Wheat’s Chef ‘Rastus’
The chef’s name was Rastus in advertisements. This was an extremely derogatory label for African-American men. In minstrel shows, “Rastus” was depicted as a simple, yet always happy man who often found himself in trouble with the law. The character was typically played by someone wearing blackface.
Early on, the company didn’t originally attempt to hide what is seen today as blatantly racist.
In one ad, the Chef held a sign with significant spelling errors that portrayed him as poorly educated.
“Maybe Cream of Wheat aint got no vitamines. I don’t know what them things is. If they’s bugs they aint none in Cream of Wheat but she’s sho’ good to eat and cheap. Cost ’bout 1¢ fo’ a great big dish. Rastus,” the sign read.
Just a slice of their advertisements are in the tweets below. Take a peek at them. They certainly made me rethink the importance of having the Chef on the box.
Cream of Wheat. The “symbol” for Cream of Wheat comes from the carcicature of a Black man “Rastus”
Rastus is prejorative term associated with Africn Americans in the US. pic.twitter.com/ojRH3srOtY
— Yosemite Sam (@Mrr360) June 17, 2020
Old ads/images no pic.twitter.com/2Y95RZEvY0
— Yosemite Sam (@Mrr360) June 17, 2020
Some of the other ads were stereotypical showing little black boys in various situations – escaping a bulldog or sitting next to a watermelon eating his Cream of Wheat.
This is a volatile time as protests and riots rage across the country. It’s also a time for us to evaluate things that we might have taken for granted.
After learning this, I am not going to miss chef ‘Rastus’ if he gets the boot.