Furore over ‘inappropriate’ milk name
An Indigenous activist who spearheaded the successful campaign to rename Coon cheese due to its racist connotations has denied his next target is Pauls' Smarter White milk.
Businessman and social justice activist Dr Stephen Hagan told news.com.au he had begun receiving "appalling" hate mail since media reports claimed he "will now campaign" for Smarter White milk to be renamed.
"I'm not running a campaign. I'm being abused because of something I didn't do," he said.
However, Dr Hagan said he had heard from some Indigenous Australians who were indeed unhappy with the name and he wondered why Paul's international owner had stuck with Smarter White rather than change it to simply "Smarter Milk".
Globally, many well-known brands have been, or are in the process of being, changed following increased awareness around issues of race in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.
COON, RED SKINS, NOW SMARTER WHITE?
Uncle Ben's rice and Allen's Red Skins and Chicos lollies are just a few of the brands sold in Australia that will receive a makeover.
But the most high profile rebranding is that of Coon cheese. Its owner, Canadian firm Saputo Dairy, confirmed in a letter to Dr Hagan last month that it wanted to "honour" the historic Australian brand named after Edward William Coon while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives".
The name change from Coon came after Dr Hagan and others, including actor Josh Thomas, called out the brand. Thomas said the name was widely considered to be "hate speech" used to belittle Indigenous Australians.
On Tuesday, Daily Mail Australia published an article claiming Dr Hagan had started a new campaign with the Paul's milk variety in the crosshairs.
But Mr Hagan, a Kullilli man from south west Queensland, said he was merely responding to questions about the appropriateness of the brand name - not launching specific action against the milk company.
"Aboriginal people are saying that there's an inference that it's for smart, white people, not for smart, black people," the website quoted Dr Hagan as saying.
The article claimed Dr Hagan was considering contacting Paul's owner, French firm Lactalis, to pressure them to remove the word "white" from packs.
In fact, Dr Hagan said he was called by a reporter to discuss comments initially made on social media by New South Wales One Nation leader Mark Latham.
Mr Latham first raised questions about the name of the milk, putting up a post Facebook about the brand, before Dr Hagan had even spoken about the issue.
"Surprised the mob haven't cancelled my favourite milk. Evidence of the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of cancel culture where evil snowflakes randomly select their next victim," Mr Latham wrote.
His two posts on the issue have now garnered more than 1200 comments and almost 4500 reactions.
Dr Hagan told news.com.au that while Aboriginal people had raised the question of whether the brand was appropriate, there was no concerted push from him to rename Smarter White milk.
"I've not raised this an issue and I'm not running a campaign. I didn't call a French company whose name I can't even pronounce.
"I was barely aware of this milk as I buy soy milk."
Dr Hagan said he'd received "appalling" abusive emails from people who beleived he was indeed advocating for the Smarter White name to be ditched.
News.com.au has seen numerous tweets and Facebook posts directed at Dr Hagan for his supposed campaign using highly derogatory terms.
"I can avoid the comments on social media but I have to walk down the street and people abuse me.
"The hatred in people's eye when they see this big black fella walking around. I don't like my family to feel that hatred so I'll probably stay indoors for the next two weeks until it all blows over."
NAME MIGHT NOT BE 'APPROPRIATE'
Nonetheless, Dr Hagan said Lactalis Australia, along with other companies, might consider changing brands that over time had been deemed to be offensive.
"I'd need to see the origin of the Smarter White name and why they used the word," he said. "It might seem trivial but if you look through an Indigenous lens, people who are demeaned every day, the term Smarter White might not be an appropriate description.
"People have said to me, what's smart about it? And why can't they use the terms like diet milk, low fat milk or 'Smarter Milk'".
Dr Hagan reiterated there was no campaign to change the name. But if there was a groundswell of support from Indigenous Australians he'd consider raising their concerns with the company.
"With Coon cheese, I got whacked around for daring to want to change the brand. But brands change, it's just because an Aboriginal person dared to change an iconic brand that people take offence."
Dr Hagan lobbied Coon cheese's various owners for more than two decades to change the brand name.
In 1999, he complained to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission about the brand name. His complaint was unsuccessful.
His more recent complaint said the name should be "consigned to the past of outdated racist brands''.
Dr Hagan has organised a number of anti-racism campaigns over years of activism. He is currently in dispute with Coles after he claimed staff at one of the grocery giant's servos forced him to pre-pay for fuel, a condition not placed on white customers. Coles denied race was a factor in him being asked to pre-pay.
On Monday, Mr Latham posted another Facebook post asking if White King bleach was the "next to go".
Dr Hagan told news.com.au he was not campaigning against that brand either.
Originally published as Furore over 'inappropriate' milk name