Monday, September 12, 2016

Australia: Golliwogs at the Royal Adelaide Show

Golliwogs are basically an American issue only.  We had no slavery, no Jim Crow and no black minstrels in Australia. Until recently, we didn't even have any Africans.  So they should not be an issue in Australia -- JR

THE Royal Show is a delightful festival of anachronisms. There’s wood chopping, sheep shearing, displays of needlecraft, crochet and patchwork quilts.

There’s thread spinning and bread baking and jam making, and the hard-working women of the CWA serve up the best scones in town at a price that even seems unchanged since the 1970s. It’s all brilliant fun.

But there’s one old-fashioned relic I was utterly shocked to discover proudly on display at the Show this week, instead of being consigned to the rubbish bin of history where it belongs: the golliwog.

With their frizzy hair, googly eyes and clownish lips, golliwogs are a grotesque, racist caricature of black people. Modelled on the African-American minstrels of the 19th and early 20th centuries, they are a caricature of a caricature. They are "blackface" embodied in a children’s toy.

They have no place in Australia’s modern, multicultural society.

And there they were at the Royal Show, four of them, proudly displayed in a glass cabinet among the handmade crochet and lace. All three prize-winning entries wore red jackets, bow ties and stripey pants, just like blackface minstrels. How quaint. How appallingly racist. How offensive and upsetting this display must be for indigenous visitors, for our many African-Australian residents.

I wondered if perhaps the golliwogs were the creation of some guerrilla arts activism group, a sort of ironic statement on racism in the 21st century. But no, there’s an official category in the Royal Show’s "Open arts and crafts" prize section, listed under "teddy bears and friends: Class 264 - golly (Traditional children’s soft toy)".

See, we don’t call them "golliwogs" anymore, we call them "golly" dolls, and say they’re "traditional", which apparently makes them OK.

The Royal Show isn’t the only offender here. Last week I saw golliwogs for sale in a Norwood newsagency, this time labelled as "rag dolls". Handy for all those needing to buy racist memorabilia with their X-Lotto tickets and craft supplies.

Defenders of "golly" dolls say they are innocent relics of a bygone era and shouldn’t be seen as racist, which is a bit like saying the swastika should no longer be seen as offensive because it’s more than 70 years old. It’s an utterly ignorant stance. We know golliwogs are racist.

The last thing I want the gloriously old-fashioned Royal Show to do is get with the times, but it should at least ditch the golliwogs.



Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Oh look at the little dollies and hear the whining from the habitial whiners who never be quite

Anonymous said...

Some perpetually offended are just filled with hate and unwarranted indignation.

Anonymous said...

The Golliwog was a gnome and not patterned off black minstrel shows. The original story had the gnome and two dolls if I remember correctly and was late 1800's. How the progressives equated the Golly's gnome with black people is perplexing but they are great a creating controversies out thin air.


Anonymous said...

As I recall, Oprah purchased a golliwog or two from a Melbourne arcade during her visit. Is that racist?

Spurwing Plover the Fighting Shorebird said...

Anon 8:27, Orpahed Windfreak has her special privlages as a whining minority whiner

Anonymous said...

When we were kids my sister had a beloved wolligog and we didn't know it had anything to do with black people. I don't think our parents did either. It didn't enter our heads.

By the way, is it racist for a black child to have a white rag doll? or only racist for a white child to have a black rag doll?