Tom Stangl

Full disclosure: I’ll admit I’m an older white guy and because of my life experiences have precious little to offer in the discourse underway about racial equality. Like many of you, I am trying to make sense of the changing times and adapt while remaining true to who I am.

That’s a tall order, but I think we are all capable of understanding a lot if we can keep an open mind and listen to others.

Last week I read and listened to news coverage about steps being taken by businesses and the entertainment world to be more racially inclusive. I have also been following the news about the Civil War and I have a few thoughts.

Our society tends to swing back and forth like the pendulum of a cuckoo clock, going from one extreme to another as one philosophy gains traction. Technology has accelerated the speed of the pendulum, in my opinion. The printing press was seen as a subversive tool by those in power, newspapers have been a force for change for centuries and now the internet spreads multiple viewpoints in the blink of an eye.

Keeping on top of it all can seem like a full time job.

Can we overcome centuries of subjugation by getting rid of movies made nearly a century ago and changing brand names of some packaged foods? I don’t think so, but it is something that can be achieved with a tweet. And, as we all know, that’s enough to fix anything.

Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben should have been retired long ago. They are old stereotypes from a time that has passed. Their rapid terminations last week made me wonder about other advertising icons. 

Mia, the native maiden from Land O’Lakes packaging, disappeared earlier this year. Robert DesJarlait, son of Patrick DesJarlait, the artist who designed Mia in 1954, wrote an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post about the Ojibwe origins of the design. DesJarlait never believed Mia was a stereotype and understands why she was removed.

When these types of things get going, like the pendulum swing, they gain momentum. I can’t help but wonder if Betty Crocker, Mr. Clean, Chef Boyardee, Mario and Luigi, Little Debbie and Col. Sanders are on borrowed time. 

The fuss about “Gone With the Wind” is a bit more nuanced, in my opinion. Yes, the novel and movie romanticize the Antebellum South. Did southerners paint the past in rosier hues to deal with the loss of slavery and superiority? Certainly. Is the movie a documentary? Nope. Is it entertaining? Yes. Have an introduction about history when it runs. Novels, movies, fashions and even food brands are products of their times to be understood in context.

Should we rename the 10 military bases named after Confederate soldiers? If the bases indoctrinated soldiers into racism or remained segregated, sure. Otherwise, leave it alone. The history made by the brave men and women who trained there is more important than the forgotten person the base is named after.

Let’s leave Washington on the dollar bill and not tear down the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial because they owned slaves.

We are going to grapple with racism for many, many years. We need to learn from the past, not re-write it.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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