Indo-American Teens End Racist Logo of “Mahatma Rice” from Houston’s Riviana Foods

By Madan Goyal

Atlanta: One Friday evening, the family was at the dinner table at their grandparents’ house. Rani Shrivastava, 15, looked down at the table and read aloud the newspaper headline about the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s brands being discontinued due to their racist connotations.

Her younger brother Rohan, 13, then looked over to see a bag of Mahatma rice on his grandmother’s counter. For a long time, he stared at the Mahatma Rice mascot, a turban-wearing, white skinned buffoon with a magician’s wand. He said, “Isn’t this the same thing against Indian Americans? That’s racist. That’s cultural appropriation.”

Rohan and Rani Srivastava

Rani added that she felt personally offended by it. “If you feel that way, then maybe you should do something about it”, their father said. That’s all it took to for the teens, joined by their cousin Shivaan Patel, to launch a social media campaign against the use of the mascot.

That very night, the kids started creating a petition and social media pages on Facebook (, Instagram ( and Twitter that explained their point of view.

“The Mahatma Rice brand owned by Houston-based Riviana uses a racist logo on their Spicy Yellow Seasoned Rice, Pilaf Seasoned Rice, and Chicken Seasoned Rice. This logo is yet another example of cultural appropriation against a minority. Mahatma Rice is grown and packaged in the USA, but it is marketed with a caricature of an Indian man.

This caricature is solely based on a racist stereotype. The “Indian man” is depicted wearing a turban and kurta pajama pants. This outfit comes from Punjab, a region in India, and is commonly worn. Using the clothing to portray an Indian, while still giving the cartoon white skin makes the logo even more offensive. The caricature is also seen holding a wand. This insinuates that he is a genie or magician. Overall, this “Indian man” not only demonstrates cultural appropriation, but also a racial stereotype.

“All of these elements create a toxic and comedic image of Indian people which can be demeaning to those who are proud of their culture. Because of this, it is clear the racist, offensive logo of Mahatma Rice MUST GO!”

To their delight, the topic took off on social media and they received more than 500 signatures within days! They later heard from an executive at Raviana who said that the company had been considering stopping using the logo to market Mahatma Rice, which has at least seven different product varieties and will do so once the current packages have been used up. It is not clear if the company will drop the word “Mahatma” which, for most Americans, evokes images of the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi