12 Mar 2009

Gollywogs: not innocent play things

A couple of years ago I wrote to the press re letters saying that Gollywog dolls were harmless - this last couple of weeks there have been further letters in The Citizen so I dug out my letter and reworked it. Here is what I sent:

A couple of anonymous letter writers to The Citizen suggest 'official time is being wasted' by do-gooders on the sale of Golliwogs locally. How indeed can such images and dolls cause offence?

In fact Golliwogs were first created in 1895 and far from being 'just a black doll' were a caricature of American black faced minstrels; in effect, the caricature of a caricature which was a demeaning image of black people. Later Golliwogs often reflected negative beliefs about Blacks as thieves, miscreants and incompetents.

Enid Blyton's books are particularly insensitive: in 'Here Comes Noddy Again', a Golliwog asks the hero for help, then steals his car. In another 'The Three Golliwogs' the Gollywogs sing the 'Ten Little Nigger Boys': a childrens poem about the death of ten Black children one-by-one.

There is also little doubt that the words associated with Golliwog, like Golly, Wog, and Golliwog, itself, are often used as racial slurs. Finally, the interest in the Golliwog is found primarily amongst adults not children: some are nostalgic, others have financial interests. To present them as just innocent children's play things is suppressing the real history.

Philip Booth

1 comment:

weggis said...

The innocence, or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder?