Many companies have been accused of having racist brands for years. They include corporate names, product names, mascots, and logos.
We found 20+ top brands (including Nestle, Colgate and Quaker Oats) accused of carrying racist brands that are making a name or branding change (5 more are making other changes). Many of these changes came on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement which put a huge spotlight on racial bias.
The types of accused racist brands include:
- Product Name — examples: Aunt Jemima and Eskimo Pies are both brand names that will be changed
- Mascots — example: Proctor and Gamble remove the “Senior Sleepy” mascot from Spic and Span cleaning products (the word “spic” and the brown-skinned mascot is racial stereotyping towards Latinx people)
- Logos/Branding — example: Mrs. Butterworth’s is revamping its branding (the curvy bottle shape is a racial caricature stereotype for black women)
- Product Descriptions — Johnson & Johnson and L’Oreal are re-visiting wording and production of “Whitening” products (words like “fair”, “light” and “whitening” contain race bias)
- Chants & Cheers — The Atlanta Braves are discussing the ethnic stereotyping of their popular tomahawk chop (the gesture is considered offensive to Native Americans)
Here are the 18 examples of changes being made by companies being accused of being racist brands:
Aunt Jemima was one of the first brands to consider changing its name due to racial biases. The brand’s name and image change will happen in the near future. A press release from PRNewswire shows a statement from Quaker Foods North America about the change:
The Atlanta Braves franchise has received pressure to change its name out of respect for Native Americans. For now, the Braves name will stand, but management is discussing the use of the tomahawk chop. Their response on racists mascots was that:
the team “honors, supports, and values the Native American community. That will never change.” And they have “created an even stronger bond with various Native American tribes, both regionally and nationally, on matters related to the Braves and Native American culture.”
Big Boy Restaurants
Along with the announcement of a new chicken sandwich, Dolly becomes the new food mascot for Big Boy Restaurants. The original Big Boy mascot is stepping out of the spotlight and the director of training Frank Alessandrini said the company wanted:
“to show that we’re still moving forward. We recognize the times that we’re in, hopefully, turning the corner in this pandemic and come out of it, but we want to set ourselves up for the future as well.”
Why are Native American mascots racist? This has been a topic of public controversy for years. Many say this is a type of ethnic stereotyping that promotes prejudice and misunderstanding. Because of this, the Cleveland Indians will see a name (and mascot) change, but likely not until 2022. A recent statement on Twitter outlined the team’s stance on social justice and equality.
Colgate – Darlie
Global toothpaste brand Colgate plans to “review and evolve” its Chinese toothpaste brand Darlie.
The brand was originally named “Darkie” and featured a man in blackface. The name “Darlie” translates to “black person toothpaste” which makes it an obvious instance of racial stereotyping.
Cream of Wheat
The makers of Cream of Wheat, B&G Foods, are re-evaluating their logo after growing concerns about racial stereotypes. The company issued a statement saying:
“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,”…”B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
New Orleans’ oldest brewery recently announced it will change its name to “shed any connotations of slavery”. Brewery owner Gayle Benson said:
“With inclusive input from all of our community stakeholders, we are preparing to change the name of our brewery and products that carry the Dixie brand and these conversations will determine what brand will best represent our culture and community,”
Popular country music trio the Dixie Chicks will now be called “The Chicks” after a name change in response to protests that have put a spotlight on racial equality. Under their new name, the Chicks released a video on YouTube titled “March March”…it already has over 2,200,000 views.
Some organizations are getting rid of the word “eskimo” because it’s considered by some to be a slur? The Inuit Circumpolar Council, for example, prefers the term “Inuit”. Linguists believe that “Eskimo” is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning “to net snowshoes.” Many people in Canada and Greenland have long preferred other names.
Organizations replacing the word “eskimo” include:
Ice cream brand Eskimo Pie is changing its name in response to race bias. Head of Marketing, Elizabeth Marquez said:
“We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory” …
“This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people values.”
Ongig proud plug: Our Text Analyzer removes racially-biased words from job descriptions, and replaces them with more acceptable phrases. (e.g. “Eskimo” being replaced with “Inuit”)
The Edmonton Eskimos
On July 21, 2020, the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League announced they will drop the Eskimo name. They didn’t announce the new name.
Geechie Boy Mill
A family-owned company in South Carolina known for its white grits is considering a name change and reviewing its overall branding “given the current climate”. According to Fox Seattle:
“Geechie is a dialect spoken mainly by the descendants of African-American slaves who settled on the Ogeechee river in Georgia”
After almost 100 years, Land O’Lakes decided to remove the image of a Native American woman from their dairy product packaging. President and CEO Beth Ford said in a statement about the change:
“As Land O’Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we’ve recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture—and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products.”
Conagra Brands recently made a statement about the review of its branding and packaging for its pancake syrups and mixes, although they said the current image was meant to depict a living grandmother, some have accused Butterworth as being a racist brand.
“We stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown communities and we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values”
Mutual of Omaha
On July 17, 2020, Mutual Omaha is removing the Native American image from its logo:
“We believe the decision to retire our corporate symbol is the right thing to do and is consistent with our values and our desire to help overcome racial bias and stereotypes,” said Mutual of Omaha Chairman and CEO James Blackledge
“Mutual of Omaha has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, both within our company and in our community. As an organization and a leadership team, we are focused on taking additional actions to answer the call for racial equity and inclusion,” said Blackledge. “We have spent time listening to diverse perspectives among our associates, community leaders and diversity and inclusion experts, and are taking further action to advance racial equity and social justice to create meaningful change.”
Nestle is re-branding some of its candies sold oversees to eliminate racial stereotyping. The alleged “racist brands” whose names are changing:
- Red Skins — is offensive to First Nations people in North America
- Chicos — used in the US as a slur against people of Latin-American descent
- Beso de Negra — in Spanish, this means “kiss from a black woman”
The sole remaining location of Sambo’s in Santa Barbara, California is changing its name. The restaurant chain once had more than 1,100 locations across the United States and its food mascot, a dark South Indian boy, was based on a controversial children’s book “The Story of Little Black Sambo”. After years of lawsuits and complaints related to racial bias and racist company names, the owners announced they would make a change. The new name is still to be determined. A statement from the owners said:
“So, today we stand in solidarity with those seeking change and doing our part as best we can … Also, please know we do not tolerate racism or violence. We are committed to being part of a long-term solution. And we ask our customers and neighbors to join us in that pledge.”
Spic and Span
Spic and Span cleaning products will have a new name and logo after the company acknowledged the “brand’s origins rooted in racial hatred of Latino peoples”. Parent company Proctor and Gamble sais it has removed the “Senior Sleepy” logo from all future packaging which has been considered one of many racist mascots under review due to the recent racial inequality movement. A PR representative from Proctor and Gamble said:
“We recognize Spic and Span’s origins are based on a hurtful racial slur. Additionally, we recognize that now is the right time to reevaluate our past and future. We must evolve the Spic and Span brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
After consulting with Native Americans, including the Washoe Tribe, Squaw Valley ski resort in California announced it will change its name. In a statement from the resort the President and COO, Ron Cohen said:
“While we love our local history and the memories we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term ‘squaw’ is offensive…We have to accept that, as much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, that love does not justify continuing to use a term that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur.”
The word “squaw” is widely considered as a racial and sexist slur towards indigenous women.
Like other companies labeled as “racist brands”, popular vegan recipe website Thug Kitchen has decided to change its name and branding. Before decided recently to change the name, the owners defended the websites name saying:
“We understand that thug is a loaded word, but we wanted everybody to be a bad ass, to have that aggression. The climate around the word thug is different now than it was when we started the site.”
Uncle Ben’s announced it would be updating the visual identity of the brand in s statement that said the company has:
“a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices.”
The time frame for the updates to the company brand has not yet been released.
The Washington Redskins franchise will undergo an evaluation of the team name according to USA Today after years of complaints about racist sports mascots and racial stereotyping. USA Today said:
“President Barack Obama asked the team to change the name more than once. In 2015, he said it was time for sports teams to “break stereotypes” and praised Adidas for working with schools to rebrand Native American mascots and logos.”
According to the article, sports teams at all levels are following suit and will see changes to their names and mascots, all in an effort to stand on the side of social justice and equality.
Adweek reported the team’s decision to evaluate their name came after a push from investors:
“three separate letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate their business relationships with the NFL’s Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its controversial name.”
Other Changes Due to Racial Bias [and Gender Bias]
These companies may not have plans to change their name, but most of them are making changes based on bias. Although alterations are still up in the air for Chiquita Banana.
The banana-woman mascot for Chiquita Banana has received criticism for years based on ethnic stereotyping towards Latin Americans. The Food Empowerment Project said on their website:
“Whether portrayed as a banana-woman in the original logo, or a human woman in the modern logo, Chiquita Banana presents sexualized and exoticized visions of Latin American women, and perpetuates stereotypical images of Latin America and the people who live there”
Despite criticism for both racial bias and gender bias, Chiquita has not announced plans to change the food mascot at this time.
Disney’s Splash Mountain
Disney’s Splash Mountain is getting a makeover after the recent momentum of the racial injustice movement. The ride’s theme is based on Disney’s 1946 film “Song of the South” which is said to have “stereotypical representations of black people”. CNN reported:
“The log flume ride — which is based on the controversial 1946 film “Song of the South” — isn’t going anywhere. Instead, it will be rethemed to star the characters from the 2009 animated film, “The Princess and the Frog,” which features Disney’s first Black princess.”
Inc. Magazine also reported that Disney Plus is including a disclaimer about outdated cultural depictions for some of its older movies containing racial stereotypes. The disclaimer says:
the “program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
On July 21, 2020, the managing director of & Other Stories (an H&M company) sent out a company memo related to a racial slur that was used as a name for one of the companies products. The statement included:
“This is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse to why this happened.”
H&M has suspended the employees involved to conduct an investigation, canceled the product, and apologized publicly according to CNN.
Johnson & Johnson
Because of the Black Lives Matter movement, skin-whitening Clean & Clear Fairness products from Johnson & Johnson are being taken off the shelves in India and the Neutrogena Fine Fairness line will stop being sold in Asia and the Middle East according to recent reports. Johnson & Johnson said the announcement came after:
“Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone”
L’Oréal is removing racially-insensitive phrases like “fair”, “light”, and “whitening” from its skin products according to V Magazine. The decision was made in support of social justice and equality. L’Oréal posted this message on their Instagram:
Brands that Might Need to Change Due to Gender Bias
Last year, Ongig’s CEO Rob Kelly observed that many companies might also need to change their corporate brand name due to masculine bias in a blog last year, Will “Masculine” Companies Need to Change their Name?.
- ManpowerGroup — $22 billion staffing company.
- Five Guys — Burger and fries chain
- Two Men and a Truck — Moving company
- Pizza Guys — Pizza Restaurant
- The Good Guys — Discount warehouses
- The Termite Guy — Termite control service.
Mottos might need to get changed too.
The Department of Veterans Affairs motto has been accused of being”exclusionary” and “outdated.”
That motto quotes President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865:
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”
It is still to be determined if the companies/organizations above will change their words. If the momentum keeps building, we will see more and more organizations alleged to have biased brands or mascots or mottos changing those names.
We will be sure to list them here as they do!
Why I wrote this?
We’re passionate (here at Ongig) about diversity & inclusion and eliminating bias of all types (race, gender, age, and disability). Ongig’s Text Analyzer helps remove bias from job descriptions. Click our demo request button if you’d like to learn more.
- Michael Bartiromo’s article on Major food brands that are changing names, logos to combat racial biases
Dayn Perry & R.J. Anderson’s article on Atlanta Braves unlikely to consider name change; team will reportedly discuss use of ‘tomahawk chop’
- Michael Hollan’s article on Big Boy restaurants replace iconic mascot with obscure character named Dolly
- Terry Pluto’s article on A look inside the Cleveland Indians’ approach to their name change: It may not happen until 2022
- Jemima McEvoy’s article on Colgate’s ‘Black Person Toothpaste’—A Market Leader In China—Is Under Review Amid Race Debate
- Alexandra Sternlicht’s article on Dixie Beer, New Orleans’ Oldest Brewery, Changing Its Name
- Ben Sisario’s article on The Dixie Chicks Change Their Name, Dropping the ‘Dixie’
- Frank Pollatta’s article on Disney announces major change to Splash Mountain ride after outcry
- Don Resinger’s article on Why Disney Plus Has Added ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ Disclaimers to Some of Its Movies
- Q13 Fox Seattle’s article on These companies are changing their branding due to racial stereotypes
- Heather Lalley’s article on The Last Remaining Sambo’s Finally Erases Its Name
- Alex Chambers’ article on Amid Calls From Liberals, Spic And Span Cleaning Products To Change Name And Logo To Something More Ethnically Sensitive
- Chrissy Callahan’s article on Thug Kitchen chefs to change website after defending ‘racist’ name for years
- Kelly Tyko’s article on Are the Washington Redskins next? Team to evaluate name following Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Eskimo Pie, others
- WARC’s article on Black Lives Matter movement forces brands’ marketing review
- Michaela Zee’s article on L’Oreal to remove words like light and whitening from its skin products
- Mary Emily O’Hara’s article on Investors Ask Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to End Relationships With the Washington Redskins
- Des Beiler’s blog on Amid national reckoning on social justice, Squaw Valley ski resort is changing its name