An Australian antique store has come under fire for selling Golliwogs, a former children's toy that has long been deemed racist and inappropriate, reigniting the conversation around the country over why the dolls are so offensive to begin with.
After photos emerged earlier this week of the toys, that were placed on top of a bench on display at a store in the tourist town of Richmond in Tasmania, people were quick to lash out at the owner’s decision to sell them, questioning how “golliwogs are still being sold in 2024”.
Yahoo News Australia tracked down the store in question, The Woodcraft Shop, but management declined to comment on the matter or defend their position. On social media, people claimed that the store’s owner was fully aware of the dolls’s racist background, but didn’t deem it necessary to remove them.
In 2021, local mayor Brendan Blomeley caused controversy after sharing a photo of the golliwogs for sale in the store, saying it was "wonderful to know the PC brigade haven't taken total control". He later stressed he was not racist and that the dolls themselves were not either.
Sale of racist toy slammed
In the photos, a laminated piece of paper can be seen above the dolls, claiming to shed light on their “true history”, which it claims dates back to when British soldiers occupied Egypt near the end of the nineteenth century. While there are some that believe this account, it’s widely disputed by scholars and historians.
Instead, it’s most accepted that the term “golliwog” was created in reference to a black doll with frizzy hair, big lips and large white teeth, which appeared as a character in Florence Kate Upton's 1895 book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. The word golliwog has since been used to dehumanise black people and the sale of the dolls has been frowned upon in most western countries.
They have widely been associated with blackface, a performance tradition in which white performers wear dark makeup and crudely stereotype black people. It also inspired the racial slur “wog”, which is a derogatory term for dark-skinned people.
Well-documented racist history
Upton illustrated her children’s book with depictions of a “minstrel doll” and, while the character was “loveable”, although “a horrid sight”, later versions of golliwogs were often portrayed as “unkind, mean-spirited and even more visually hideous”, according to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.
In 1934, golliwogs were even banned by Nazi Germany on the grounds they were “inappropriate toys for Aryan children”.
Here in Australia, many First Nations peoples say that the sale of the doll might seem small to some, but it represents a wider deep-rooted cultural problem.
In 2018, three golliwog dolls were removed from public display at the Royal Adelaide Show after backlash.
In 2019, a hot air balloon with a golliwog face named "Black Magic", also known by the nickname "Golly", was banned from participating at the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.
Aussies weigh in
Online, people criticised the Tasmania store's decision to sell them.
"The racism apologist story is just completely false — no part of it is true," one person said, pointing to the Egypt theory.
"The store owner has been told many times it isn't true," said a second. "[They] get quite defensive and rude when called out on it. Apparently King Charles loved them and so they can't possibly be racist. Just ridiculous," another wrote.
Others said they were most outraged by the price.
"I'm most offended by the price, $99 WTF Tassie," a person said.
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