Yes, Coon cheese must be renamed. It’s racist

 

Did you hear the one about the comedian calling for Australian cheese brand Coon to change its name due to unfortunate racial connotations?

Well here's the punchline: he's absolutely correct.

A rethink of the offensive four letters that have stared back at us in supermarket dairy aisles across this country for decades is long overdue.

 

A picture of cheese with a racial slur that also happens to be its name printed on the front.
A picture of cheese with a racial slur that also happens to be its name printed on the front.

And yes, I'm aware the product was named after Edward William Coon, the man responsible for patenting the ripening process used to manufacture said cheese.

But with due respect for the undoubtedly fine achievements of Mr Coon, surely having his name plastered across an iconic brand for the better part of a century is recognition enough.

Coon’s name change is long overdue. Picture: Peter Ristevski
Coon’s name change is long overdue. Picture: Peter Ristevski

For all the self-indignation on the part of many Australians suddenly deeply concerned about preserving the legacy of an American who died in his hometown of Philadelphia in 1934, a more pressing matter is what the name has come to mean to our own fellow citizens right here in 2020.

And to many Indigenous Australians, it means something a lot less savoury than a harmless cheese sandwich.

"I'm Indigenous and absolutely hate that word," a woman responded when comedian Josh Thomas first raised the issue on Twitter earlier this week. "No matter how many meanings it has, teenagers used it with venom in high school."

Australian comedian Josh Thomas asked whether Coon should change its name. Picture: Jason Edwards
Australian comedian Josh Thomas asked whether Coon should change its name. Picture: Jason Edwards

But as Thomas soon learned, many disagree. Indeed, according to a viewer poll on the Today show yesterday, 95 per cent of viewers rejected the suggestion Coon rethink its branding - a statistic borne out by the heated feedback to my comments supporting a change of name.

Given the often absurd events of the past week, it's not hard to understand the resistance.

With the extremely important and valid issues at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement somehow being hijacked into a ludicrous sideshow of various classic films and TV series being shelved - not to mention the juvenile and unhelpful destruction of statues - public fatigue is palpable.

But the question as to whether Coon should change its name is not a debate about history, or censorship, or even that old chestnut known as political-correctness-gone-mad.

It's about people. People who have as much right as you and me not to be reminded of an offensive racial slur every time they open the fridge to reach for a block of cheese.

Sarrah Le Marquand is the editor-in-chief of Stellar magazine.

Originally published as Yes, Coon cheese must be renamed. It's racist



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