Pancake Fans Need to Know: Is Mrs. Butterworth White?

Here’s a sentence you probably thought you’d never hear: breakfast syrup is now becoming a controversial topic. Aunt Jemima is remixing its logo and name. Quaker Oats, the company that produces the saccharine pancake topping and Super Troopers food challenge of choice acknowledges “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”

The issue now has people wondering about one of Aunt Jemima’s competitors: is Mrs. Butterworth white? 

Is Mrs. Butterworth white?

Personally, I always equated Mrs. Butterworth with the granny from Looney Tunes, Mrs. Doubtfire, or any old white woman that faints after the camera cuts to her in a key comedic scene in a forgettable ’80s comedy. So I always assumed that she is.

And the truth is, yes, Mrs. Butterworth is white. In fact, one could argue that people who thought she was black were… kinda racist themselves.

Article continues below advertisement

Article continues below advertisement

There are a few reasons some people thought Mrs. Butterworth was Black. One: it’s easy to conflate the Butterworth brand with Aunt Jemima. Both are breakfast syrups featuring women. While Aunt Jemima uses “Mammy” imagery in order to sell its products, Mrs. Butterworth simply used someone who looked like they could be an old school headmistress, or some town grandma that holds her purse in front of her with two hands and walks with quick little steps.

Another reason is that the Butterworth bottle is transparent, and some just assumed, because syrup is brown, that must mean Mrs. Butterworth is a Black woman. Then you have others who argue that, if Mrs. Butterworth is a maid, then whoever came up with her design must certainly have imagined her as either a maternal house slave or Southern Black maid.

Article continues below advertisement

There are claims that the Mrs. Butterworth bottle was modeled after Gone With the Wind actress Thelma McQueen, but they haven’t been substantiated. Again, the earliest adverts for the syrup clearly depict the sentient food appropriating the persona of an old white woman.

Article continues below advertisement

This isn’t the first time Mrs. Butterworth has become the subject of controversy. Back in 2012, the University of Missouri gave one of its food service workers an award for on-the-job excellence. The trophy? A gold spray-pained bottle of Mrs. Butterworth. Some folks complained that the move was racist, but Calvin Rolark, the Black food supervisor who came up with the idea, didn’t think so. A Mrs. Butterworth bottle was chosen because it resembled an Academy Award.

Director of diversity and outreach at MU School of Medicine, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp stated, “It’s inappropriate to give our lowest-paid employees an award representing being a faithful slave,” in an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton didn’t think so, “You can’t jump the gun on all of these issues. Everything is going to offend somebody.”

View more information:

Articles in category: Wiki

Leave a Reply

Back to top button