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Aunt Jemima is off the pancake box

By Leonard Pitts, Tribune Content Agency on

“I wish I knew how it would feel to be free” – Nina Simone, 1967

Here’s a knock-knock joke:

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Aunt Jemima.”

“Aunt Jemima who?”

 

“Ain’t yo’ mama on the pancake box?”

Okay, so you’re not laughing. But that joke killed in 1969 on the playground at Adams Junior High. What self-respecting black kid wanted his mama likened to the handkerchief-head mammy who beamed from the box of pancake mix?

Now comes word Aunt Jemima will no longer be “on the pancake box.” She’s going away, and Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth and “Rastus” from Cream of Wheat may soon follow.

Meantime, the NFL now admits it was wrong to ignore racism, Commissioner Roger Goodell even going so far as to support the idea of Colin Kaepernick playing football again. NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag and statues of Confederate heroes are falling like rain. Massive crowds of people, many white, have been marching and chanting against police brutality and talk of reform is so pervasive even Donald Trump felt compelled to issue an executive order, weak tea though it was. On late-night talk shows, discussions of racial justice have all but replaced movie promotions. White Americans are asking hard questions about white privilege and – in a miracle on par with the loaves and fishes – many appear, for the first time, to be listening to the answers.

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