A couple of days after an online petition gained ground against the branding of one of Stillwater’s most popular restaurants, Eskimo Joe’s, the “beloved” burger joint is looking to the community for direction.
“We’re hearing a lot of chatter regarding our brand and image,” the company wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “Everything we do is steeped in the tradition of unbeatable guest service, and we are always happy to hear feedback from our customers and community.
”At this time, we are taking all views into consideration and evaluating the best path forward for our company.”
The post provided a link, eskimojoes.com/input, where community members can share their opinions.
The online form requests a person’s name, ZIP code and state, and asks whether they have eaten at Eskimo Joe’s or purchased any affiliated merchandise before asking them to select a statement that best reflects their opinion: keep the brand name and logo; keep the brand name, but change the logo; change the name and logo.
There’s also a space for additional comments.
The petition on Change.org, started by Tatiana Hayton, whose profile identifies her as an Atlanta, Georgia, resident, calls for an end to people of color being depicted in caricatures and used as mascots, specifically in Eskimo Joe’s and sister restaurant Mexico Joe’s branding.
The Eskimo Joe’s logo is a caricature of an Indigenous person from northern North America, and the logo for Mexico Joe’s is a caricature of a man holding a taco and a guitar while wearing a poncho and a sombrero.
The term “Eskimo” was assigned to Indigenous groups by non-natives.
“Eskimo Joe’s has been a beloved but racially insensitive Oklahoma brand since it was established in Stillwater in 1975,” Hayton wrote. “Everyone in Oklahoma knows Eskimo Joe’s, but few question the restaurant’s name or branded mascot as offensive or racist, or even know the term ‘Eskimo’ is considered a racial slur.
“Perception is starting to turn. Some students at the local college are voicing their concern, people who have lived in Oklahoma their whole lives are starting to recognize the problem, and newcomers to Oklahoma are horrified.”
She, and at least 1,280 others as of Tuesday evening, request that owner Stan Clark lead a “total rebranding” of both restaurants that removes “dehumanizing imagery and the slur ‘Eskimo.’”
Multiple counter-petitions sprung up on the website in the days following, including one by Tim Applegate, whose profile identifies him as a Muskogee resident, that states the names and logos are a tradition “far from racist and offensive” and don’t need to be changed.
More than 14,280 people had signed in support Tuesday evening.
Photo gallery: A nostalgic look at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater