Madame Noire I were a food service worker, I can’t say I’d be thrilled to be rewarded for a job well done with a spray-painted Mrs. Butterworth syrup bottle—mostly because it’s stupid, not racist as members of the University of Missouri campus are claiming after employees there were given just that.
“It’s inappropriate to give our lowest-paid employees an award representing being a faithful slave,” Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, director of diversity and outreach in MU’s School of Medicine, told the Columbia Daily Tribune.
For once though, no ill-will appears to have been truly intended. For one, Calvin Rolark, the black supervisor of food services who came up with the idea, chose Mrs. Buttersworth’s bottle because it resembles an Oscar. Number two, Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton told the Tribune he thought Mrs. Butterworth was white—as do most people.
“You can’t jump the gun on all of these issues,” the chancellor said. “Everything is going to offend somebody.”
The thing is, there are some discrepancies with the history of Mrs. Buttersworth. Actress Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen is said to have modeled for the Mrs. Buttersworth bottle around the time she finished her role as the young mammy “Prissy” in “Gone With the Wind.” But the first television ads of the syrup icon featured her as an older white lady, portrayed by Cliff Arquette as “Charley Weaver,” and later voice actress Mary Kay Bergman also carried on the aura of an elderly white woman as the syrup symbol we see today. If Aunt Jemima were the object in question there would likely be no doubt about the racist undertone, but Mrs. Buttersworth’s mammy history is a bit more cloudy.
Click here to read the rest of this story.