The Great Butter and Syrup Crisis of 2020

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We have had a series of crisis in this nation during 2020. One crisis obviously was, and continues to be, the coronavirus pandemic that has affected the entire globe. This has led to a financial crisis, an unemployment crisis, and even a mental health crisis. In addition to the havoc brought on by the virus, in the United States there have been at least three recent events where unarmed black men died at the hands of police officers or former police officers. The response has been nationwide protests for police reform and, in a number of cities, there has been rioting, burning, looting, and killing.

I have been made aware of another crisis that is garnering no little attention on social media. I call it the “Butter and Syrup Crisis.”

Not long ago the makers of Land ‘O Lakes Butter decided to eliminate the Native American Woman on their packaging. More recently, the folks who sell Aunt Jemima Syrup have chosen to eliminate the image of Aunt Jemima, a black woman, from their label. Now in the Aunt Jemima case, it wasn’t all that long ago that she was portrayed in clothing that reminded one of “Mammy,” played by Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel in “Gone with the Wind.” Her appearance was later given a more modern look. Now she is to be eliminated altogether.

And some people are upset! And, what from I can discern, many of the upset people are from the politically conservative side of the spectrum — which is surprising to me because conservatives are generally pro-business and believe that business ought to run without much interference.

So, here’s my question to the people who are upset: With all the truly serious issues our nation is facing, why are you so wound up over these two products? Why do you care that these companies have determined that the Native American woman and Aunt Jemima are headed for the Recycle Bin?

Here’s the cold, hard truth — It’s their product! The company can do pretty much what it wants to do with the labels on its own product! Good grief, people.

Businesses are in the business of turning a profit, of making money. No profit leads to a lack of money which leads to the closing of the business. Businesses are not in the habit of knowingly cutting their own financial throats. At some point, someone did some research and determined that changing these logos was in the best financial interest of the company. The management apparently agreed and here we are with new labels. Why does anyone care? We have the power to buy or buy not, but we do not have the right to dictate to a company how they market or label a product.

And where does it end? Are we going to get our boxers in a bunch if the makers of Lucky Charms cereal decide to eliminate the Irish Leprechaun in favor of, say, a shamrock?

And what if the rabbit ,that still hasn’t learned that “Trix are for kids,” is replaced by a magician who does “magic Trix?”

Then, there’s Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Will we then see it as an attack on short people if they are replaced?

Sometimes businesses make blunders, as in the New Coke debacle some years ago. Consumers responded by complaining and not buying the product and Coca-Cola realized their error and brought back the more familiar taste.

Part of the problem, of course, is that we are so very easily offended about nearly everything these days. Social media gives each person an opportunity to vent about both the serious issues and the most trivial issues of the day. Many people, I think, confuse the mundane with the major.

Many years ago, a politician asked me if I found fault with how he was serving his constituency. I replied that I felt that he never met a molehill he didn’t turn into a mountain. I see this happening with great frequency on social media. There are people who either cannot or will not distinguish a molehill from a mountain. And so the rants begin.

It’s not just that people are upset over what I perceive to be minor issues or even non-issues. It’s that, if you have a different point of view, you somehow become the enemy. It’s possible to be de-friended over the issue of butter and/or syrup! It’s just butter, folks! It’s just syrup! Why do you care?

I know that those of us who are older take some solace from familiar things of the past. When I was a kid, a favorite snack was RC Cola and a Moon Pie. I saw that Cracker Barrel still sells Moon Pies but does RC Cola even still exist? Well, yes, Royal Crown Cola does exist but one has to really search for it. We can’t always hold on to the familiar, as much as we’d like to. The one unchangeable aspect of life that is constant, is that change will occur.

The Apostle Paul, writing to his protege, Timothy, said, “Remind them of these things and charge them not to quarrel about words (I would also add “images,” or “brands”), which does no good, but only ruins the hearers … But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:24-26 ESV).

There’s a great amount of “babble” on social media at present. Most people only have so much emotional energy to spend on problems and issues. I choose not to spend mine on internal angst over butter or syrup. Relax. Chill. Unwind. Cut down on the caffeine. The changing of artwork on the brands will not irreparably damage the culture. And if it does, the culture was beyond saving anyway.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]