Why Golliwog wars are important

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I will be attending a small demonstration taking place in Sutton this Friday, 7th October. We will be protesting about the sale of Golliwogs by a local shop.

Despite repeated requests to remove the offensive "Wog dolls" from Sutton's Memory Lane gift shop window display, they have to date simply refused to do so. In fact they have now launched a public campaign arguing that these dolls do not cause offence and refused to remove them, a full month after Sutton Liberal Democrat Councillor Lester Holloway complained.

The shop owner adding insult to injury and initially responded by actually increasing the number of golliwogs displayed in the shop window after the police visited her store in the Times Square mall.

Let's be clear about this. A Golliwog is a disgusting White stereotype of an enslaved African that seeks to negate the greatest crime in human history and transform the misery of enslaved Africans into a cartoon figure of fun. I am attending this demonstration because the desecration of our culture and marginalisation of Black people into crude racial stereotypes is unacceptable. Simply put, Gollywogs are a grossly offensive artifact of slavery and promote racism. It is tantamount to the 'Disneyfication' of slavery, brutality and racism.

Displaying golliwogs in London in the 21st Century is a grievous insult to the Black community of London. Slavery was the greatest crime in history and any depiction of it as soft cuddly toys is demeaning and insulting.

Here is an expert from the Enid Blyton children's book entitled The Three Golliwogs published in 1944 perfectly illustrates historical context of the Golliwog dolls.

'Once the three bold Golliwogs, Golly, Woggie, and Nigger, decided to go for a walk to Bumble-Bee Common. Golly wasn't quite ready so Woggie and Nigger said they would start off without him, and Golly would catch them up as soon as he could. So off went Woggie and Nigger, arm-in-arm, singing merrily their favourite song - which, as you may guess, was 'Ten Little Nigger Boys.'

Little Black Sambo books are another example of this period and Ten Little Niggers referred to above is the name of a children's poem which celebrates the murder of ten Black children.

In the 1960s the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, one of the most noted regiments in the British Army, wore a Robertson's golly brooch for each Arab they had killed. After the war, wog became a more general slur against brown-skinned people. There can be no doubt that these dolls represent racism at its worse the forced indoctrination of young children into racist stereotyping.

The Sutton shop eventually took the golliwogs off the shelves after this protest was announced - despite previously making public statements that they were not going to remove the dolls - however they intend to continue selling them and are seeking and receiving local support for their right to do so. A recent Sutton Guardian online poll showed 80 percent of readers supported golliwogs.

It is hoped the protest will be a clear response making an important anti racist statement. The fascination with Gollywogs is a relic from a bygone age and the passionate defense of the Wog doll represents a cipher for a disdainful political perspective on race.

The demonstration will highlight the offensive nature which Golliwogs represent as they are dangerous and gross racial stereotypes of Black people. Such awful stereotypes promote racism, encourage name calling in schools and are used as an anti-Black political and culturally offensive symbol.

To show your support, people are asked to assemble outside Sutton main train station at 12 noon. We will then make our way to Times Square mall for a peaceful protest and photocall. Times Square may be closed for the occasion; if so, we will gather outside the entrance or as near as we can get. Organisers are keen for protestors to bring cameras and camcorders. African drums are welcome too.

For more information e-mail: lee-jasper@live.com

Lee Jasper

Archived Comments

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What about current depictions of Black men on stage?

I would just like to make a comment about this issue. My point is this.

I am less concerned about a small shop in Sutton selling golliwogs and much more concerned about portrayals of Black men on the RSC stage in Stratford upon Avon.

The RSC receives a high level of public funding. It attracts millions of visitors from the UK and abroad. It is one of Britain's key cultural institutions.

I went there this Summer (2011) to see the RSC's version of The Merchant of Venice starring Patrick Stewart.

The Prince of Morocco was played as a brainless boxer. Yes, in Shakespeare's play, Morocco is arrogant (Morocco's fatal flaw is his arrogance) but he is supposed to be a Prince. He should have some level of dignity and he should be regal. Every single production has Morocco as that - even versions that I have seen from much earlier periods.

The current RSC version portrays Morocco as a brainless boxer - a complete idiot and a total figure of fun. The Black actor playing this role should have been ashamed of himself, but apparently relished the audience mocking him and laughing AT him (not with him). The Stratford audience, a large proportion of whom are locals, loved it as well - they were having the time of their lives laughing at the idiot Black man - the brainless boxer - thinking he had a right to Portia. Unfortunately, the RSC attracts a lot of US visitors as well and it would be interesting to see what they thought and felt about this portrayal.

It was, quite simply, the most offensive portrayal of Morocco I have ever seen. It played to all the worst stereotypes about Black men. I found it insulting and offensive. It made me feel uncomfortable. This type of portrayal would, I am certain, not have been allowed anywhere near a London stage.

Surely, given the power and influence of the RSC, and the huge audience it attracts nationally and internationally, and the public money it receives, we should be protesting about that, not against a Sutton shop, which is a private business and, as such, is entitled to sell whatever it wants.

Yet, Another New Labour Legacy.

New Labour, in their thirteen years in office, could not resist the temptation of interfering with the Race Relations Act 1976 and underminig it in the process. Bringing back racist images like the golliwog and all that it represents were very strong principles held dearly by New Labour. Add this latest insult to the riots, lootings and arsons in August of this year, we can now see where all their reasons and daft logic has brought us to. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's respective government's has taken this country backwards in matters concerning race. Both men together with their advisors, have already licked off the 'Big Society'.

As a result of all this and more, I hope we will never have another Labour Government for the next twenty years; except of course, if Ed Milliband can make some positive changes to his Shadow Cabinet and key decision making positions within the Labour Party, get rid of the deadwood of the past New Labour Government, and bring The Labour Party in to the New Millenium. I must admit that he has one hell of a job to do.

Think Of The Future Generations.

Rakshita,

If I felt the way you did watching this play, I would have registered my indignation about it with the Royal Shakespare Company directly. The issue of the golliwog is of equal importance; probably even more. The question is when does all this nonsense end?

If Equal Opportunities was effectively in operation, by now all non-Whites should be economically independent; which would empower Black People to own their own theatres and write more positive plays about Black issues rather than the play that panders to the stereotypical drivel you have very rightly highlighted here.

If the issue of golliwogs is not tackled in Sutton, it would spread around the country and we will all be back in the dark-ages again with issues concerning race. Lester Holloway, in my view, should be commended for taking up this fight. Well done Lester and another wonderful article by Lee.

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