Don’t let the Gollywogs get you down :(

Looked innocent enough. Little did I know when I walked in they would be selling GOLLYWOGS!!!***!!*!

My heart sank when I spotted them. And suddenly the small gift shop felt even smaller and tight as if all of the air has been sucked out of it when I inwardly gasped. I remained cool though and, in Swedish, asked my Swede to take a picture of the Gollywogs while I continued my I’m just looking lap around the store.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box of Gollywogs before.

Maybe it was my imagination but it felt like I was invisible, at least no one wanted to let me pass easily as I slinked around the shoppers looking at rows and rows of British beach pier souvenir junk. I was the only black person in the store. Just me and the box of Gollywogs. I wondered if they were invisible too to did people come in looking to buy a Gollywog when they visit the seaside.

When we got outside I remarked, that was some racists sh*t (or something to that effect). My Swede asked why I didn’t say anything to the store owners. I replied, no, I’ll blog about it. This is why my non-profit is needed. We need a directory for black women across Europe so no one ever feels alone.

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6 Replies to “Don’t let the Gollywogs get you down :(”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. This is terrible. Unfortunately, golliwogs are still highly popular among some people – the gollies are still with us.

    1. I was stunned and probably should have said something but decided to blog about it instead. I have since learned that this is not so unusual 🙁

  2. The French composer, Claude Debussy, wrote a piano composition
    titled, “The Golliwogs Cakewalk.” A cute little number, very rhythmic.
    Just another example of the racial “effect” in European tradition.

  3. I can relate. But I must admit. I inhale, exhale, then approach management. A few years ago, in Basel, Switzeland, two separate incidents come to mind. Globus, an exclusive, relatively pricey department store, ran a window display, showcasing African items. One South African’s self-designed tee- shirt featured a Michael Jackson profile(Jackson Five eraesque) with a medium afro. How excited I was to see his persona until I read the untertitel…FORMER DARKIE!
    __ish…._amn!…???????? I was furious. I immediately elevated to the second floor of administration(I had worked a summer job at Globus), and was allowed to speak to management. I explained the racist implications of the untertitle of the tee shirt, told her it was offensive to me and others of African descent and that it should be removed. The female spokesperson feigned that she had no idea, that she would look into it. I explained to her that I would not be the only one entering her office to complain and that I would go to the press. And indeed, all the aforementioned things occurred. I contacted friends who passed by the store, went in and filed complaints, and I contacted the Coordinator of the Institute of African Studies in Basel, Veit Arlt, and offered my concern. He understood my chagrin and told me he would pass by the store to assist in a solution. In the meantime, the Globus representative wrote me an email and explained the tee-shirt had been designed by a black South African, Themba Mngomezulu, which she used to de-warrant my complaint. I reiterated that the word Darkie had serious racially discriminatory connotations for me and other colleagues and that Globus should be held accountable for initiating action for the removal of this particular tee-shirt from the main display window. I researched the designer, Themba Mngomezulu, contacted him by email. Because his brand, Darkie, a street band that features photos of Muhammid Ali and Grace Jones, was launching in Switzerland in 2009, he dismissed my concerns, choosing to enjoy the multitudes of controversy that it was causing. I contacted the Basel press. An article was published highlighting the tee-shirt and Dr. Arlt’s commentary. Adminsitrations’s strategy. They subtly covered the word Darkie by covering with a jacket and buttoning over the word.

    Second experience
    A chocolate store in Basel, called Xocolatl, Gmbh, formally located near Marktplatz, discreetly crunched in between Co-op and the tram stop offered customers all sorts of chocolate and teas. I entered the store, eager to purchase a treat or two for friends and myself. At the register, my heart fell into my stomach, when staring back at me, was a Jolly Ni__er Bank, the an iron bank with a black face constructed with an attachment so that one could open and close after feeding the black mouth a coin. This same bank is featured in Spike Lee’s movie Bamboozled. I approached the owner and asked her if she understood the racial discriminatory concept of the bank. She offered, “‘Banks as these were used in Catholic churches for offerings.'” I told her “‘This bank is offensive to me as a black woman.'” She offered, “‘Lots of my Novartis and Ciba Geigy(pharmaceutical industry) customers delight in this bank.'” “‘These customers are obviously of the Caucasian race and perpetrate white supremacist ideas. I doubt very seriously if you have any black customers who find this bank delightful.'” I warned her that other black folk would be entering her store over the next couple of day to voice their consternation. A friend of mine later told me the bank had been removed. And later the store closed… least, in that location.

    * In light of recent uprise in xeonophobic tendencies, I remain encouraged, and choose to grasp the beauty of each day. When I oberve, witness incorrect caricatures or behaviour, I choose to diplomatically address the situation. In my experiences, a positive solution always ensues. Thank you for writing about this, “Don’t Let the Gollywogs Get You Down”. Rise Up!

    1. Thanks for your advocacy Anna! I continue to admire your willingness to point out what is wrong, never back down, and never let anyone off of the hook.

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