Duncan Hines Can Kiss My Brownie… Insidious Racism in Harmless Cupcakes

Racism is a word  a lot people want to avoid or deny. Most racism is insidious and just kind up creeps up and pops into place where you hardly imagine.  As I walk in a  Black woman’s shoes, my perceptions of incidents are my own and not always shared by  my friends of other races. It could be for various reasons, they don’t believe it , or don’t want to believe it.

For example, a few years ago I was at a dinner party consisting of a crowd of those in the medical profession, scholars and attorneys. A normal crowd for me and one in which I grew up in. Anyway I was having a discussion with a so called liberal woman ( the type who find you find in Evanston or Hyde Park near the universities) as she grilled me with the usual questions:

  • How I knew the couple? (What you went to school with them?)
  • Where my accent came from (because I don’t have one.)
  • Who my people where (smile)
  • Where I work, what do I do

…and a whole bunch more of the kind of questions you get when a so called liberal can’t figure you out because you don’t fit their perceived stereotypes.We were talking about Opera ,and she assumed my association with it was that I was a singer, not a patron of the arts or leader of a junior board. At the end of our conversation she said…brace yourself… “You’ll go far Blackbird”. I was shocked and appalled because she just threw it in like a  Molotov Cocktail in a genteel club. Out of no where and totally from left field. The polite private school, educated in Europe woman,I am didn’t go off on the woman but excused myself and immediately told my host and friends, who did not believe me and were dismissive. One even said she was trying to make a compliment.That incident was jarring and revealed a lot to me about my so called friends at the time and society. See I grew up sheltered  in a predominantly white society and my Mommy always warned me, but I was to naive to see some things. Nor did I want to.Because who wants to actively search for the ugly aspects of life?

So it doesn’t surprise me, yet I’m still surprised ,that the Duncan Hines Incident barely made a ripple on the internet. I have seen more outrage and commotion over a top bloggers mistreatment or slight, a medieval pie recipe being plagiarized with snark retorts, a poor lunch served at a major conference, or a shortage of  canned pumpkin in the Fall. When  my journalist friend sent me the link to this insulting video on Twitter, I was appalled. I forwarded it to others and posted it to my fan page. Barely a murmur. The only ones indignant where my friends Bren, Chrystal, and my journalist friend who showed me. The one thing we all have in common besides writing, love for food, is that we are educated influential Black women.

A hot shot Chicago ( don’t get me started on Chicago’s racial divides) director named Josh Binder, no stranger to controversial ads ,conceived this Black face parody for Duncan Hines of Hip Hop cupcakes dancing to what is most definitely  NOT Hip Hop music. Harmless, fun with baking ?An ode to modern culture?  I think not. The derogatory signs are blaring.

  • Why bring Hip Hop into the equation? There is nothing Hip Hop about it.

  • Can’t chocolate glaze be shown another way?

  • Why not show the  lone Vanilla cupcake dancing too?

  • Why is the lone vanilla cupcake singing off key?What it’s not Hip Hop enough?

  • Why are the eyes and lips pronounced like the most stereotypical  derogatory offensive  images of Blacks that have plagued us since slavery?

As someone in sales management , I ask what marketing  and leadership teams teams allowed this minstrel show  to pass through the endless meetings and planning stages? Where there no self respecting African Americans or other  minorities on the  Duncan Hines  or advertising teams or were they just to intimidated to speak up? Duncan Hines has pulled the Amazing Glazes Video from You Tube but you can still see it on various sites. Finally  their management saw Amazing Glazes Chocolate Cupcakes going Hip Hop wasn’t so wise .They realized African Americans have huge buying power and don’t want a negative fiscal impact, especially with the peak holiday baking . A few sites such as Huffington Post and others who have the clip ,carry comments and polls showing most people don’t feel the ad was racist. This country is so politically and racially divided  that some of the comments I saw left a nasty after taste in my mouth.

What do you think?  In my opinion Duncan Hines  and Pinnacle Foods can take it’s minstrel show and Kiss My Brownie. Ironically Pinnacle Foods Group  also owns Aunt Jemima , who has been transformed from the most demeaning do ragged Mammy type  image, into a modern day homemaker with relaxed hair.No matter how you dress her, the hurtful insensitivity still lingers.

So that’s my two cents. I have a lot of things to post about right now that are more in keeping with the Holiday Spirit, but I felt compelled to write this. Agree or disagree,  but this is how I see it as  a Black woman. It’s shameful and sad because  while I have far evolved in my baking from the box mixes, I remember learning how to bake with Duncan Hines products.Please check out my other fellow Brown  Bloggers opinion on this matter. We feel as bloggers of color we needed to say something, even if the rest of the food blogging community chooses to ignore or dismiss it as harmless cupcake fun.

Flanboyant Eats

The Duo Dishes


Thanks for all the great responses.Most of it has been pretty positive and a few negative comments. The purpose of this post was to create a dialogue about cultural sensitivity in corporate America and the media, and that we have. As a result some other Bloggers from all walks of life and cultures have also posted their views .

Restless Chipotle

Food. Soil. Thread

Kiss My Bundt

Anali’s First Amendment

Comments Closed

27 thoughts on “Duncan Hines Can Kiss My Brownie… Insidious Racism in Harmless Cupcakes

  1. The Duo Dishes

    All good points Courtney. It’s important that people realize and respect that some have found this Duncan Hines incident offensive, whether the level of offense is minor or major. Happy that the commercial has been pulled!

  2. HeatherinSF

    I haven’t been on Twiiter lately so I’m learning of this outrage after the fact. How utterly appalling. This kind of thing saddens me to the core, that despite all steps forward suddenly our society slides backwards with a depressing thump under the guise of happy baked goods. I was speechless recently to hear teens joke about racism while on the bus, they thought it was funny. I felt like crying inside. I spoke up and asked them how they can find humor in hurting others. They just laughed at me. Here’s to keep trying to spread the word of tolerance, kindness, equality and to being advocates for good.

  3. Marye Audet-White

    Hmmm… I have been swamped..I totally didn’t see this. It IS obnoxious…. but then I thought the Cali Raisins were obnoxious…and everyone seemed to like them.

    I think that companies think they are being with it, cool, and friendly. I think they see it as reaching out and identifying with society…sadly it is a bit like a 50 year old buying teen clothing brands. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make them cool..it makes them sad.

  4. Peter

    How you didn’t smack the woman at the party is beyond me and as for the TV ad, it’s subliminal use of sterotypes is noticeable now and whether they intended to use blackface cupcakes or not, hopefully D-C and the ad agency will think twice about future campaigns.

  5. milaxx

    hot mess. People say I’m too sensitiive and gripe about every little racial slight, bit there are some things that are slipped into everyday convo that I just refuse to let slide.

  6. Joanne at Frutto della Passione

    Courtney, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I first saw the picture at the top of your post. I am quite frankly flabbergasted. And then when I read about your conversation at that party I almost fell out of my chair. Living in a mostly mono-cultural society (that is having HUGE growing pains now that immigration is increasing) I see and hear a lot of outrageous comments but I would have thought that this kind of thing was starting to disappear from North America. I guess I need to pull my head out of the sand.

  7. Bren

    Great points, Courtney. I’m with you on incidents… I didn’t even bother to mention the one strong situation that happened to me in DC while I was suited up working in corporate America.

    Like Milaxx says, the continuous slights are enough to make noise about. They’re simply not ok.

  8. Lisa

    Thank you so much for bringing up this commercial! I had no idea. As another black woman who people often can’t “figure out” right away, especially the way I talk, I can’t say that the party conversation shocked me too much. I guess we all go through similar scenarios. *sigh*

  9. Lisa

    I just left a message on Duncan Hine’s facebook page with a link to your post. You have to “like” them to leave a messge, but then you can “unlike” them again.

  10. Barbara @ Vino Luci Style

    Until she moved to TX a couple of years ago, my closest friend in my suburban and almost all white neighborhood was a black woman. Educated, smart, funny and the MOST beautifully manicured and tended home you can imagine.

    The things she had to endure were my wake up call and not just from ‘society’ at large but in our neighborhood. Insults were shouted at her from cars passing by her home on a regular basis and that’s only part of what she dealt with.

    Just as I’ve told my daughter that the fight for women’s equality is not over, I found that you have to be living with your head in the sand to believe that there is racial equality in this country.

    But this mess? There simply are no words. And I apologize if that helps at all. Someone needs to and I doubt it will be Duncan Hines so you have mine. XOXO

  11. Alta

    Okay so first, I can’t believe that woman’s comments at the party. How someone could be so “educated” and yet so ignorant (or maybe just extremely insensitive) is beyond me, but I do see it happen. And I can’t believe this commercial got this far, as you said, through Duncan Hines’ management and marketing! Even if the brain behind this idea created this without malicious intent, SOMEONE had to have said something! But yet they didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t, for whatever reason, which just goes to show their lack of progression. I too sometimes go along thinking that we as a society have grown (I don’t actively seek out unjustice either!) but obviously, sometimes, something needs to be said, and actions need to be taken. Thanks for sharing this – and I’m with Barbara. I apologize too!

  12. Courtney

    Thanks Alta. You and Barabara dont have to apologize for Duncan Hines actions. It would be nice if they aplogized or issues a formal statement however. 😉

  13. Bobby Brown

    People need to grow up. It was and still is a harmless advertisement.You want to play the race card and get sympathy over a cute advertisement now wow im in shock.If the country was so racist you would not have a half black president.
    Who by the way has not done a very good job but no one is yelling and screaming about throwing a rope over a tree in the back yard of the white house.
    Affirmative action also needs to go away.Now if you want to talk about racism well lets mention the United Negro College Fund that does not sound racist now does it or how about Miss Black America oh gosh that does not sound racist oh my.
    Just live and let live and stop stirring op negativity every chance you can get. P.S. The Cupcake lips were made out of pink Icing which is my daughters favorite flavor icing.

  14. Courtney

    I didn’t mention a noose, you did. Thanks for the comment!
    And maybe you need to research why a United Negro College Fund, HBC’s, and Miss Black Americas originated in the first place. For lack of opportunity and a voice.

  15. RJ Flamingo

    Courtney, this is the first I’ve heard about this or seen this ad. Some white corporate yahoo at that agency thought it would be cute and hip. Of course, it’s neither. Why didn’t someone at the agency or DH catch it? Because (and I’ll bet my cats on it) there are no people of color in any position of authority in either organization. White, country club Republican wannabes who have seen one too many episodes of Madmen and have stood at one too many bars sipping martinis and thinking they have their fingers on the pulse of the public. I’ve said it for many years: If you think you’re cool, you’re probably not. I’m not cool and have no illusions about it. I say boycott Duncan Hines just because they’re clueless idiots. Betting their products are full of HFCS, too.

    There are so many movies, ads, and commercials out there that objectify women and perpetuate stereotypes. You know that cell phone company whose ads feature two Indian or Pakistani guys portrayed as buffoons? Every time one of those ads comes on TV, my husband and I ask each other why we’ve never heard about any outcry from people of those descents about the stereotypes and derisive manner their people are portrayed.

    Point is, you’re not being over-sensitive. People are thoughtless – in the strict definition of the word. They have no thoughts, they do not think. Is that an excuse? Hell no. But people today have no sense of history. I’m betting that the idiots who thought up this commercial are completely unaware of the “minstrel” and “Jim Crow” era. And you know what they say: Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

  16. Anne

    Oh, Courtney – that’s just so sad, all of it. Your ‘friends’ need to rethink themselves in a big way.

    You know, my second daughter’s boyfriend is black. I never thought anything of it (still don’t) and love him enough that I hope she marries him. My own mother, when she found out about him was, “We don’t DO that” I simply said, “Really mom? I guess we DO.” Shameful. I was so disappointed in her ignorance, still am.

    You rise above it, babe – so very well and I’m glad you wrote this and brought it to light because it’s there no matter how far anyone thinks we’ve come.

  17. Mattie House

    You guys need to get over this racist act already…this advertisement was not racist in any way…so called slavery went back as far as the Egyptian and Roman times..so stop thinking we owe you something already or pity because you’re comparing yourself to a cupcake..

  18. jeanne

    Of course it’s racist. That’s the same way they used to draw black people – black face, big white bulging eyeballs, big red lips, singing and dancing. It’s an insult.

Comments are closed.