Golliwogs

The issue of Golliwogs has, once again, raised its ugly head, dividing those living in Australia, between whether it is a harmless toy, or whether it is a offensive representation of black people from an era where blacks were seen as nothing more than slaves.

The image of the doll has become the subject of heated debate.

The argument is that the image should be retired as a relic of an earlier time when racism against those of West Indian and African descent was both blatant and acceptable, while opponents in its favour argue that it should be preserved and passed on as a childhood tradition.

We are sensitive to both arguments, but our position is that the phrase Golliwog and the depiction of the character is a throwback to a time when black people were seen as second class citizens, only fit for slave labour and the amusement of white people.

In the same way that the attitudes towards women being seen as second class citizens continues to improve in some areas of society, so should attitudes towards those of West Indian and African heritage.

This image of black people is not one that should be passed down to another generation of children, in the same way that the unacceptable language of the past should not be taught.

To perpetuate these images in the pictures, toys and artifacts that still adorn shop windows is either to express apathy, or worse, pleasure at the offence that it causes the black communities.

Manufacturers throughout the world have recognised that they do not wish to offend the very people who buy their products, and as a result have removed the characterisation from their products.

There is only a small minority that are still unprepared to accept, or refuse to care about, the offence that these characterisation cause in the wider community within which we all live.

Oprah’s visit in 2009 served to raise the profile of the offence that Golliwogs cause amongst some members of a wider Australian community that considers itself to be multicultural and tolerant to the needs of others.

Seven years later and this week a shop owner in Geelong who is selling the product, says that he would be upset if anyone is offended by the dolls, he continues to says “Certainly no offence or racial overtone is intended. I understand the politics which could be associated with this type of product”

Yet in the next breath he says “We’re certainly not going to pull the product…It’s our best selling product…we are increasing our order of them.” Clearly this shop owner has not understood the politics, or worse, he has chosen to ignore the politics and any ethics for is own profit.

The fact of the matter is that these products sell, and sell out, which means that the general understanding of this issue in Australia is poorly lacking.

Our research has determined that Australia is the only place where Golliwogs are sold so openly, and the only country where the feelings of those it offends are so readily ignored.

Justification for the sale of Golliwogs is then masked in a thinly veiled passive aggressive attitude in Australia which is hard to ignore.

If it were a doll that depicted a sexualised white child, there would be a national outcry and the product would be removed instantly, however because this product offends black people, white Australia does not care.

This is yet another example of how the rights and wishes of black people are ignored in Australia.

We can only hope that those who continue with this outdated tradition of selling and collecting these offensive stereotypes will become more sensitive to those original Australians, and those of West Indians and African heritage, who over the years have made Australia their home.

However if people who buy and sell Golliwogs are unable achieve this sensitivity on their own, then more activist action may be required to highlight to shop owners that their can be no profit is selling a offensive images of black people.

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