The manufacturer of an Australian brand of cheese called “Coon Cheese” will soon retire the product’s controversial name, The Age reported. The cheese brand has existed in the Land Down Under for nearly 100 years. For more than two decades, indigenous rights activist Stephen Hagan has been fighting for the product name to be changed because the name has racist connotations.
The word “coon,” short for “raccoon,” has been used as a racist slur against Black people for centuries in the United States and other countries, including Australia, according to Dictionary.com. In the U.S., the term lent itself to an entire genre of songs used in minstrel shows, including the once-popular song “Zip Coon.”
Hagan was so keen to have the cheese’s name changed that he made a complaint to Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
“I don’t take delight in doing it, but I was offended by these things and I felt it was something I could do. I had capacity to do it,” he said.
The manufacturer, Saputo, has refused to change the name for years, saying that it was not intended to be racist. The brand was named for its founder, Edward William Coon in 1926. However, on Friday the company announced that, following a thorough review, the time has come to retire the product’s moniker.
“We believe we all share in the responsibility to eliminate racism in all its forms and we feel this is an important step we must take to uphold this commitment,” the company said in a statement.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Saputo has promised to come up with a new name but did not release a timetable for when that will happen.
However, Hagan is not done with his campaign to have Australian supermarkets and convenience stores purged of products with racist names.
“I would like to change Samboy chips. I would like to get rid of golliwogs from stores and supermarkets,” he said.
In the United States, other brands have also taken a look at the names of their products in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which have brought attention to examples of racism not just in policing, but in other areas of daily life, such as consumer goods. For example, as previously reported by The Inquisitr, the manufacturer of Aunt Jemima has decided to retire the name and imagery of the mascot as the name and character archetype originated in racist minstrel shows.