It's an unfortunate but urgent realization: you look at your pantry or scan the grocery store aisles and see a sea of Black faces, smiling even, on Aunt Jemima bottles, Uncle Ben's boxes, Mrs. Buttersworth products, and many more. One could be fooled into thinking this is a feat in representation, but those faces don't represent anything but a figment of this country's racist imagination.
Following similar announcements by Aunt Jemima's, Uncle Ben's, and Cream of Wheat, Eskimo Pie is the latest, but hopefully not last, food brand to let go of its racist branding.
Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, the company behind the freezer aisle staple now formerly known as the Eskimo Pie, shared a statement earlier this week detailing how the brand is planning to change the chocolate-covered ice cream product’s name.
A statement from Dreyer's spokesperson shared with the Wall Street Journal said, "We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory." The term in question is "Eskimo," a derogatory name that clumps together a host of indigenous groups from Antarctic Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and Greenland.
While the word "Eskimo" comes from a Central Algonquian language still spoken by indigenous people around the Great Lakes today, its use by racists and colonizers as a descriptor for indigenous people has turned the word into a derogatory term. While some people call themselves Eskimos, it's a largely out-of-date term for non-Eskimos to use, with "Inuit" being the preferred term by many, one with less of a tie to the violent colonial past.
Like Aunt Jemima, Eskimo Pie will be renamed and rebranded by the end of the year. It will also discontinue the Eskimo character that, to this day, has remained on its packaging. But like many of these century-old brands, stories about how the Eskimo Pie came to be, focus largely on how the creator got rich overnight thanks to his ingenious idea, and little to nothing is said about the name's place in history.