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Friday, June 4, 2021

Even worse

 Yesterday I had to pick up some butter, and I've always purchased "Land O Lakes" (unsalted, in half sticks). Now I'm fully aware of the whole package design reboot that coincided with the elimination of Aunt Jemima, et al, but time has not inured me to the change. In fact, yesterday, as I looked at the box, I couldn't help but think that the new design was FAR more insensitive than the old one.

Here is the old design: 

The old package design, which I never thought was offensive. In fact, as someone sympathetic to Native American issues, I felt this was warm and pretty positive....even while admittedly commercial. But 'hey' it's advertising. 

And here is the new one: 

Comparatively stark and seemingly implying that "Hey everybody, we FINALLY got those pesky Indians off our lake!"

As I stared at the cold, empty space of the new package, I couldn't help but think: "so, profit-seeking White folks drove Native Americans from their lands, and NOW, they've driven them off this once-serene label!" Instead of seeing the new design as enlightened, I found it to be symbolic of what has been done to these indigenous people from the time settlers first arrived: pushing them off land, in this case, land bordering a lake. Purging the native element. I am not Native American myself and I don't know what actual Native Americans think of the change, but I sure found it to be cringey. 

To put this in context, let me give you all a little background. Back in the 80's I was a Washington Redskins fan. ( I thought Joe Gibbs was the master of the halftime adjustment, and "the Hogs" were a force to be reckoned with.) But I bristled at their name. I saw no difference between "redskin" and "nigger" in intent. It was and still is a derisive term. It's not the name of a tribe, or of a 'chief' or brave', but clearly a term used as a pejorative.  I didn't think the image was offensive though, and found it a stark contrast to the Cleveland Indians' cartoonish caricature. Had the team been called by a different name, and kept the logo, I would have seen no issue. 

Cleveland's contribution to Native American culture. 

I wrote them. They wrote back. The dismissive response I got back then angered me and prompted me to give them up completely, and for years I didn't have a team, or even watch football. Even now I only occasionally watch a game if someone else has it on, or if it's a Super Bowl I have any interest in. Fast forward several DECADES to 'the new woke era' and the name has finally been eliminated. It sure took long enough.

In contrast, I found the Native American reaction to the debacle encircling Elizabeth Warren, during the primaries to be absurd. Here you have a person who was told by her mother that she was part Native American, and who IDENTIFIED and SYMPATHIZED with Native Americans, and even has an opponent calling her "Pocahontas", but was misled. She was not as Native American as she thought or claimed. BUT SHE WAS ON THEIR SIDE! Nope, no good. "How dare she try to identify with us?!" they jeered.  Nonsense. How about look at who is with you and who is against you for real, and be harder on your opponents and a little more forgiving of those who are trying to help?

And here's one more thought to ponder. About a year ago, on our way to Niagara Falls, we drove through "Indian land". Signs were posted along the road stating we were in a section of our country owned by the Seneca nation. And here's the kicker: periodically one could see establishments open for business, owned and operated by the Seneca people, each sporting images of Native Americans that make the Land O Lakes woman seem like an ideal to be strived for in advertising! I was stunned. With all this concern over stereotypic imagery, here were images as bad or worse than anything I've seen any White ad agency come up with, and yet they're on Indian land and under Native American sponsorship.

So as you can see, my view is not all one side or the other, but is based on what I always try to do and take each case as it comes. The treatment of Native Americans in this country is historically abysmal and gets far less attention than it warrants.  But they are people too, and not always angelic, or right, or perfect. Still, for whatever issue one wishes to focus on, the legitimate problems facing Native Americans are not going to be assuaged by the changing of a football team's name, or by the redesign of a butter box. 










14 comments:

  1. I share your depth of feeling about the near annihilation of Indigenous Americans, and slavery. HI sometimes think that humanity by and large,all our self appreciation notwithstanding, is just a cancer on the planet.

    And that's not self loathing. Everything with DNA strives to survive and competes to do so. But from my limited perspective, we don't really fit into anything even vaguely resembling a place in the ecological balance. Humanity's proper number probably should be in the low millions and not in any billions.

    So think I.

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    1. I don't disagree. The good news is that the planet has historically been able to conduct its own purges thereby giving new species a shot at perhaps being better stewards, though realistically, it wouldn't matter in a universe governed by chance. Things are what they evolve into and mass extinctions come from events that don't judge.

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  2. Speaking of Indians/Native Americans, and slavery as it was in North America always puts me in a conundrum. I am the first one in my family born in the United States, so MY ancestors had nothing to do with how these people were treated in what is now the United States.

    Over the years, I have become more and more horrified by the actions that have been taken against Indians/Native Americans and slaves, and when I was educated about Nazi Germany and the abuse and murder of Jews and others during the Holocaust, I couldn't understand why there was so much hatred thrown at people because of who they were or what they believed.

    As much as I feel horrible about all that, I don't feel guilty because my people were not a part of such horrific abuse, and when people ASSume that I/my family was a part of the problem, and point at me, I tend to bristle. In fact, I bristle whenever I see or hear, or am witness to racism.

    ::steps off soapbox::

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    1. I too am descended from Poles.....on all sides, all of whom came here as recently as my maternal grandparents and as far back as the 1800s on my father's side. None were slaveowners. My maternal grandparents were very poor peasant stock who barely scraped enough to get here at all. So I get it.

      I have always felt bad for underdogs, of which history has given us many. But I hate being blamed for something I am neither responsible for, nor endorse. And my absolute WORST quality it seems, is an annoying penchant for the truth....whether convenient or inconvenient. ;-)

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  3. As a member of a minority group in the community in which I live, I do find that racial stereotyping can cut deep sometimes and seldom reflects the true me. The biggest problem that I find with it, is that it tends to lead the majority ethnic group of any one place see you as a part of a minority that is shoe horned into a group identity and reduces your perceived personality as an individual.

    Please excuse me, I have to go and put on my bowler hat and Union Jack tie, as it is time to take my mad dog out for a walk in the midday sun

    Prefectdt

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    1. As an Englishman in Belgium, you are getting off light with the "mad dogs and Englishmen" stereotype. LOL But, if they ever give you too much crap, ask them about their King Leopold and his little rubber business in the Congo. LOL

      Seriously though, stereotypes are funny. On one hand they pigeonhole people into categories too general to fit all its inhabitants, but on the other hand, often unpleasantly call out traits that seem common enough for even the people themselves to laugh at. (if they have a sense of humor) Ethnic jokes are funny for a reason. If there was no truth at all to the stereotypes, the jokes would never have triggered a laugh.

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    2. I wish I was getting of light with that stereotype. As inaccurate as it is, it is at least quaint. I'm afraid, in Europe now, the main stereotype of the Brits is of the England football (soccer) top wearing, Guinness swilling thug, who only eats all day English breakfasts and refuses to speak any other language than English or adapt to local cultural practices. This does not represent me.

      Prefectdt

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    3. I would think not.

      Don't forget the typical Polish stereotype: "the dumb Pollack" probably drinking a crappy beer while wearing a bowling shirt. Not exactly me either. LOL

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  4. I don't have much to say about the native american / indians topic. But I will say that when you put the two packaging designs side by side like that, it DOES look like they've once again manage to 'drive them from their land'. I do like the old packaging. So calm and peaceful and welcoming!

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    1. Exactly. The new one seems.......sterile.

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  5. If people could trace their ancestry back far enough, the majority of us would almost certainly have both slaves and slaveholders among our ancestors.

    I don't believe that anyone is responsible for evil done by his/her ancestors (even recent ones), unless he/she denies it happened, and/or tries to justify it, and/or perpetuates it in any manner.

    "Redskin" is definitely a pejorative term, it was employed to justify the near-genocide of Native Americans. Of course, the team's early owner was George Preston Marshall, a white supremacist who convinced the NFL to ban African-American players in the 1930s, so the name didn't bother him at all.

    I'm in agreement about the butter package too, there was no need to change it. Concerning the Cleveland Indians' logo, I will state that those type of sports-team 'mascots' are often rendered cartoonishly... --C.K.

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    1. "back far enough" I like that term. It sort of exemplifies the issue. When is far back, close enough to be relevant, and when does it become irrelevant? I certainly think the issue is much more complex than how those using it, present it.

      And yes, I suppose even Notre Dame's "fighting Irish" could be considered derogatory by some.

      The convenient thing about victimhood is just how subjective it can be, making it an ideal state in which to elicit sympathy. Maybe a person who just escaped from slavehood on a modern day Thai fishing boat would have difficulty comparing his experience to a third or fourth generation descendant of African American slaves, just as that descendant might disregard the validity of someone whose slave ancestors go back to the Bronze Age.

      Interesting stuff to ponder.

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  6. I don't like the 1700+ Farmers Strong part. That seems offensive and exactly like your thought - we got the Indians off our land through our strength. (We take the Capitol next.)

    We don't have that brand here, but I will look for Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben products tomorrow and see if they have changed here.

    Hugs,
    Hermione

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    1. Oddly enough I took that part of the label differently, but I do see your point. And I'd be curious to know if the label are the same. I'd imagine for cost concerns there would not be a variation just for a different destination.

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