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Columns

Why take blame for the name

The coronavirus hasn’t changed my routine much at all. I still roll out of bed sometime after sun-up, stumble down the stairs, throwback a handful of pills, pour myself a cup of coffee, plop down in my chair and turn on the WGN morning news. The one thing that has changed is the news.

Aunt Jemima? Are you kidding me? Aunt Jemima is a household name. She has been in our family for decades. As a matter of fact, I went to the cupboard to do some research and I found six bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup. Six bottles of assorted types including one type with “Natural butter flavor” but “contains no butter.” Maybe it comes from the Sodium Hexametaphosphate. The recipe is difficult for me to grasp and I doubt it has anything to do with Nancy Green, the original face of the pancake mix that spawned the entire Aunt Jemima line of products.

The family of Lillian Richard, who became the new and improved Aunt Jemima representative in 1925, has asked Quaker Oats to keep the Aunt Jemima brand as is because they consider it a tribute to their family hero. In my humble opinion, if the family approves, then we should not disapprove. Those six bottles will remain in our cupboard until my wife justifies her reasoning with mounds of pancakes on a table surrounded by our grandchildren.

We need to stop and think about removing names and icons that were first placed as tributes to people and ideas. The confederate flag of stars and bars is one lasting icon of American rebellion. We Yankees might see it as a leftover from a period of traitors to the union but southerners see it as something different. Blacks see it as something completely different. Its demise is certainly warranted.

If we’re going to remove flags, statues, and names from our history then we had better draw a line somewhere or this might become a huge pain in the geography class.

Let’s start with Illinois. Illinois is actually a French name for the people encountered by explorer La Salle along the Illinois river. The name translates to “Best People.” If Illinois is a derogatory name to indigenous peoples then we should probably change our state name to Best People.

And then there’s Indiana, which literally means Indian land. Narrow that down to Indianapolis which means Indian Land City. How’s that for a slap in the face to the indigenous people of the western hemisphere after being mistaken for inhabitants of India? We steal their land then name it after them.

This all seems a bit overblown to me.

KEVIN FOSTER retired two years ago and is now sponging off his wife. He can be reached at tsloup@shawmedia.com.

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