Food brands are phasing out racist mascots. Will sports teams follow?
Norma Dunning still remembers the elderly passenger on a flight who asked her, “Where are you from?”
“Edmonton,” Dunning replied, but the woman shook her head. “No, no, no. Where are you from?”
Dunning understood the woman wanted to know her ethnicity. But when she answered, “Inuit,” she got a blank stare. Finally, Dunning said, “I’m Eskimo.”
She dislikes the term, but caricatures of her ethnic group in popular culture, including food branding, make it the term non-Indigenous people know best. Eskimo Pie, which has been around since 1921, features a smiling boy in a fur-lined parka on its packaging. The Canadian slurpee brand Cold Sucks also includes a parka-clad Inuit boy.
These depictions, Dunning asserts, lead strangers to believe that if Inuit individuals don’t have harpoons and eat raw meat, they’re inauthentic. “We can never get away from that image,” said Dunning, whose book, Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity just debuted. “We have to think about how these renderings of Indigenous people have a subconscious effect on the public imagination.”