Among the most popular restaurants in Stillwater, Okla., the home of Oklahoma State University, is "Eskimo Joe's."
The term "Eskimo" has long been seen as offensive and outdated by the Inuit community, a group of people who live in Northern region that encompasses Alaska, Northern Canada, Greenland, and parts of Siberia. The term is no longer recognized or used by the Canadian government. There is currently a push to rename the CFL team in Edmonton that uses it as its nickname, a similar controversy to the ongoing Washington Redskins name change push.
Eskimo Joe's name is problematic, as is its logo/mascot—a caricature of an Inuit person with a hungry dog. Now, there is a local push to rename the establishment. A Change.org petition has over 1,000 signatures since beginning a day ago. It also calls for another restaurant owned by the same man, Stan Clark, called "Mexico Joe's" to be renamed as well.
"People of color shouldn't be seen as caricatures or used as mascots. It's damaging for children to see themselves depicted as ugly or dehumanized," the petition states. "These depictions parallel the racist ads, mascots, and cartoons of Native Americans, Asians, and Africans. The Inuit and Mexican people are not to be exploited for these restaurants' branding."
"We're not trying to make these restaurants go away. Racism is nuanced, and it can come from an innocent place," Tatiana Hayton, who began the petition, writes. "But this insensitivity contradicts the positive impact these businesses have on the community. We ask the owner, Stan Clark, for a total rebranding of Eskimo Joe's and Mexico Joe's that removes this dehumanizing imagery and the slur 'Eskimo.'"
Clark says he's considering all opinions expressed, and "evaluating the path forward" for the restaurant and its branding. From KOCO News:
“Everything we do is steeped in the tradition of unbeatable guest service, and we are always happy to hear feedback from our customers and our community. We are taking a close look at the opinions some people have expressed and are evaluating the path forward for our company and our brand.”
Not everyone is happy with the call for a rebrand, as is usually the case with issues like this. There is now a counter-petition for the restaurant to keep the mascot as well.
Eskimo Joe's has a large profile. A shirt from the restaurant popped up in 1987's Can’t Buy Me Love, and former President George H.W. Bush said he was a fan of the sports bar. Hopefully they come to a workable solution here.