Good Reason

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You know who else liked biscuits?

Racism is serious, and therefore charges of racism are serious. Sometimes racism gets incorporated into the language in unexpected ways. Like I still can’t believe they have ‘Coon’ cheese in Australia. And my mom remembers a time when brazil nuts were called ‘nigger toes’.

But I don’t think this is one of those times.

What’s in a name? Coles biscuit slammed as racist

The name of a range of Coles chocolate and vanilla biscuits has been labelled racially loaded and a throwback to Nazism by a prominent Brisbane Indigenous leader.

The name of the Coles brand biscuits, Creole Creams, has sparked controversy in the wake of the much-derided Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface skit earlier this month.

The biscuits, similar to Arnott’s Delta Creams and Oreos, with a chocolate exterior and cream centre.

Sam Watson, the deputy director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at the University of Queensland, said the word “Creole”, often used to describe a person of mixed European and Africa ancestry, was a racially loaded term.

“The word Creole comes from a period when people’s humanity was measured by the amount of white blood they had in their bloodstream. This is the same kind of thought that underpinned horrific regimes like the Nazis,” Mr Watson said.

Watson clearly hasn’t spent much time on the net; he’s blown his Godwin on the very first round.

But besides that, I think his argument’s overblown. Two things:

1. Coles isn’t the first to call these things ‘creole cremes’. I found a reference to them on this 2007 post from someone in Melbourne. I’m not sure how widespread this usage is. Anyone?

2. I’ve studied terms of abuse. ‘Creole’ could be used as a term of abuse, but I’m unable to find any examples of people doing so (which I find kind of surprising). On the other hand, ‘Creole’ is used to describe a genre of cooking in Louisiana USA. This page even has a recipe for Creole Cream Cheese, which might go well between two chocolate cookies.

So at this stage, I think this is a frivolous charge of racism. But I don’t know. I thought the biscuits had that name because of the kind of language they invent when talking to other biscuits.

4 Comments

  1. The company claims it was named after Edward William Coon, who invented the "cooning" process.

    http://www.naturallycoon.com.au/story.html

  2. Ah, but Stephen Hagan claims that Edward Coon was a mere cheesehand induced to lend his name to the process.

    Sadly, the evidence Hagan offers for this claim is unclear. Could it be a… snow job?

  3. Funny. Your comment about biscuit language, that is.

    And the article reminds me of how some people think that it is derogatory to call a person "Mexican." I disagree. How is acknowledging race – in people, and in cookies – offensive?

    I think that so-called color blindness is actually a form of racism.

  4. In my experience here in the states it is not considered racist to call a mexican a mexican, the problem arises when people mistake nationality or national origin as a descriptor for race. For example some people in the states will call any latin american a mexican which if you are from Chile for example is very offensive.

    The race mixtures in latin america, and in the americas in general are so complex I always think it is best to refer to someone as they refer to themselves whenever possible.

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