The manufacturer of the Uncle Ben’s line of rice and similar grain-based foodstuffs is “re-evaluating” the name and mascot of its products, Reuters reported. The move follows news that the manufacturer of Aunt Jemima has decided to retire the name and image associated with its own products.
Mars, Inc., which manufacturers the candy bar that bears its name as well as the Uncle Ben’s line, said in a statement on Wednesday that the time has come to take a hard look at the name and image on its packaging of products within that brand.
“As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices. We recognize that one way we can do this is by evolving the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity,” said a spokesperson for the company.
The mascot of the Uncle Ben’s line of rice and other grain products is a caricature of an elderly African American man wearing a bow tie.
That has led to criticism that the company’s mascot is based on an outdated racial archetype.
Indeed, writing in Forbes, Seth Cohen says that the name has its roots in slavery.
“[Uncle Ben’s is] another product branded by a fictional representation of a Black man that stirs up racist stereotypes. In particular, the word ‘Uncle’ harkens back to terms pejoratively used to refer to slaves,” Cohen writes.
However, according to Mars itself, “Uncle Ben” was not a generic stereotype, but an actual person: an unidentified African American rice farmer who was known for his exceptionally high-quality crop.
Similarly, the image of Uncle Ben is purportedly based on a real person, rather than an archetype. Specifically, legend has it that the basis for the Uncle Ben mascot was Chicago hotel maitre d’ Frank Brown, according to a 2007 New York Times report.
For now, Mars has not revealed when, or even if, the Uncle Ben’s logo and name will be changed.
“We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities,” the spokesperson said.
The announcement came the same day that Quaker Oats, the manufacturer of the Aunt Jemima line of products, revealed plans to ditch its own name and image.
As reported by The Inquisitr, unlike Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima clearly and unambiguously comes from an offensive racial stereotype, rather than real people. Specifically, her name comes from a song performed at minstrel shows, and her original image was based on an offensive racial archetype.