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Petition against Hebden Bridge shop selling golliwogs

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Thanks to the Calder Valley Anti-Racist Collective for this story in the runup to March 21st, which is International Day for the Elimination of Racism.

At the corner of George's Square in Hebden Bridge is a shop that sells cuddly toy golliwogs, proudly displayed in a large glass cabinet. Fothergills is themed around the 1940s, when a golliwog would have been seen as a normal child's toy.

Golliwogs first featured in a children's story and some people associate them with the innocence of childhood. But golliwog imagery is inspired by the blackface minstrel tradition where, according to the Collective, white people caricatured people of colour in a racially stereotyping way. The Collective claim that this tradition drew on a racist set of beliefs and assumptions common in the 19th century that people of colour were 'primitive' or somehow less than white people, something that is reflected in the name of the toy itself.

The petition, initiated by Hebden Bridge resident Mike Upton, requests that the shop stops selling the toys.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

Comments on the petition page include

"I do not think golliwogs have a place in a modern multicultural society."

"I visit Hebden regularly, and do not want to see things like this on display."

"It's 2014 - we shouldn't even be having this discussion. Please stop selling them!"

"Because middle class racism disguised as 'vintage cool' is not acceptable."