SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week’s announcement by Quaker Oats that it was dropping its Aunt Jemima brand has focused renewed attention on racial stereotypes in the marketplace.
A Sioux Falls man says it’s important to acknowledge the practice of racially-based branding, as a way to recognize and overcome stereotyping.
Many people will see these knick-knacks and mementos as racially offensive.
“A lot of white people come over and go, ‘Ooh, whoa. I don’t like that,'” Porter Williams said.
But Williams sees history in his collection.
“And they can reflect back and say, ‘Wow, look at how they treated us,'” Williams said.
Williams began collecting the items decades ago when he was an antiques dealer.
“I didn’t like the stuff; I mean, I hated it. Every time I’d look at it, I just kind of, I don’t know, I didn’t want to buy that, I don’t want nothing to do with that,” Williams said.
But Williams’ attitude about the items has since changed.
“Is it offensive to me? No, I’m past that,” Williams said.
A big part of Williams’ collection includes items depicting Aunt Jemima.
“Everybody ate pancakes and they poured the syrup on it,” Williams said.
While Williams is glad the Aunt Jemima brand is going away, he doubts that her disappearance will have much impact on the public’s perception about stereotypes in the marketplace.
“Now they’re going to eliminate Aunt Jemima, so what’s that mean, she’s going to disappear? No that’s still part of history,” Williams said.
A history that many people would like to see fade away. But Williams thinks unsettling images like these should be front and center, to show everyone how far we’ve come in race relations, and how far we still need to go.
Even though Williams has many Aunt Jemima collectibles, he says he’s not a fan of the syrup.
Williams is a well-known local sculptor whose Martin Luther King, Junior statue is in Van Eps Park. He’ll share his thoughts about how that statue has been a centerpiece in recent protests, next week in Eye On KELOLAND.