MARGATE, Fla. – A product label found in a South Florida supermarket is in the spotlight after it left a shopper disturbed and outraged.
Paul Taffe told Local 10 News’ Layron Livingston that he was shopping at the Presidente Supermarket in Margate earlier this month when he came across Azucar Morena brown sugar.
“Doesn’t matter how you look at it, it’s racism in any form,” Taffe said. “Bottom line, and it should not be on the shelf.”
The woman on the label has darkened skin, a big smile, bright eyes, and hair tied up in a scarf.
“When you see an image of a Mammy dancing around with two sugar cane stalks in her hand, thinking that she’s having a jolly old time, it’s not,” Taffe said. “It was never a jolly old time for us.”
The Mammy stereotype, a depiction of happy enslaved Black women, only grew in popularity after the Civil War, and into the early 20th century.
Mammy was pop culture for decades, showing up on product labels, in movies, and as figurines.
Many now decry the image of “Mammy” as a racial trope.
The research of Dr. Rokeshia Ashley, a Florida International University professor, focuses on Black women and body image.
“We still see these moments where things haven’t caught up everywhere,” she said. “They might just be like, this doesn’t exist because they don’t have those lived experiences.”
“I’m not surprised that it’s present,” she said of the packaging. “I’m surprised that it’s on the shelf. I would think that in this day and age that some type of GM or some type of supermarket regulatory agency would be able to say, ‘Hey, what is this?’”
The sugar was still on the shelf when Livingston stopped by.
Local 10 News reached out to South Florida-based Presidente but they have yet to respond.
Taffe says he took his concerns to a store manager and was told the issue would be addressed.
He said he posted about it on a Presidente Supermarkets Facebook page, but the post was removed.
He says he won’t be going back to the store.
“It’s not touchy, it’s not petty, it’s wrong,” he said. “And racism needs to be called out, no matter where, or when you see it, it needs to be called out.”
Local 10 News called the phone number on the package and spoke to a man who claimed to be the owner of Azucar Morena. He said the sugar comes from the Dominican Republic and it is packaged in Puerto Rico.
The man said he paid an artist some 20 years ago to come up with the image; he said he does not find it offensive.
When asked if he would reconsider changing the image, he responded “maybe.”