In response to my post on comparative racism, leannenz left a comment that made me realize I’d left something important out of the post—a part of my thinking that was clear enough to me but invisible to anyone else. So I’m bringing the issue out of the comments zone and into a post of its own.
Leannenz wrote that she grew up “in the age of Enid Blyton, Noddy, Big Ears and Golly. I had the book Little Black Sambo read to me as a child. Nowadays there is a lot of talk of Noddy and Big Ears being in a homosexual relationship and the racist facet to Golly.
“I look at them now as part of history. They were what they were back in the day, a child’s toy, a child’s book but the thank goodness we have made progress and they are now no longer the accepted norm. Thank goodness people are willing to say they are derogatory and demeaning and don’t have a place in the modern classroom. I would say, let people remember a childhood toy with fondness BUT I would like to think that now people would realise these dolls originated from the colonial era of class system that put people down and would chose not to make or purchase them although I suspect they are still out there.”
I understand that some people have fond memories of golliwogs as childhood toys, and those feelings are their own and no business of mine or anybody else’s. It’s when people assume that their feelings and memories justify the public use of golliwogs that I object.
No more than a few weeks ago, a charity shop in a nearby town decided to celebrate the town’s jazz festival with a window display that included some golliwogs. Somebody objected on a town chat site and was jumped all over by multiple people who use the site—and defended by others. I don’t read the page so I don’t know the numbers, but it sounded like only a few people defended him and a lot of people attacked.
It got ugly quickly, as these things do online.
I was in town just after I heard about it, so I stopped by the store to voice an opinion. They must have already gotten an earful, because the woman I talked to started answering me before I’d gotten to the end of my sentence. It wasn’t her decision. The manager would have to decide. And so on.
They took the display down and wrote on the chat site that the person who put it up had meant no offense. Which I’m sure is true. It was an act of pure cluelessness.
The person who initially raised the question ended the discussion by saying to the people who’d attacked him, “You may not understand this, but your children will.” Which strikes me as a moment of pure grace, under the circumstances.
Thanks to leannenz for her comment, and to the many other people who left thoughtful comments.