Saturday, 1 May 2010

Bigotgate and Golliwogs


One of the things that’s always drawn me to Cornwall is the friendliness of the locals. On one childhood coastal walk into Hayle from St Ives, an elderly man tipped his hat to my parents and wished us “Good morning.” “Who was that?” I wanted to know, my city expectations utterly flummoxed by the revelation that human beings could greet complete strangers without disaster ensuing. No aberration: everyone we met did the same. In town, little old Cornish ladies always had time to chat to us. I was suddenly “moi ’andsome” or “moi lover”.

It didn’t matter that my father was Chinese, and I largely took after him. We were as welcome as anyone else.

So it’s with considerable dismay that I find a new range of tourist tat in the gift shops. Remember those golliwogs you thought you’d seen the last of? Well, they’re back, and this time it’s personal.

Jolly Golly now brings you golliwog dolls, keyrings, mugs: all making the most of the new foreigner paranoia and celebrating the end of PC, if PC means being nice to people.

Gillian Duffy may indeed be a 'sort of' bigot, but she’s only expressing fears stoked up by media owned and run by the larcenous rich who’d rather you looked over there than at what their own friends are up to here. Dyson ditching the factory workers who helped make his cleaners a success and chasing the cheap labour in Malaysia? Bearded Virgins and ticket-pricing cartels? Billionaire non-doms who don’t pay tax? Down-sizing, cost-cutting, record profits going straight to directors? No, your job losses and lack of housing are, according to the pundits, all the fault of ordinary people trying to make an honest living. Having pandered to ‘concerns’ about ‘immigration’ during New Labour’s thirteen-year tenure, Gordon Brown is merely reaping what his party have sown.

The shop-owners would probably feel mortified if visiting black children were distressed by these parodies of who they are. Face to face, flesh-and-blood humanity is never the same as the demons inhabiting your own head. I doubt they’d be happy to do emotional and psychological damage to those children, but such is the poisonous climate fostered by the race and nationalist agenda that the Redneck Tendency is being nurtured to the abandonment of some of the best race relations in the world.

Recent polls show that the areas where the BNP are strongest are those where there are smaller immigrant populations (or none at all!), indicating that this is all based on projection of fears rather than actual threats in the real world. So while we face economic meltdown and the destruction of our services, anger is set to be deflected onto those deemed “foreign”, whether of colour or Eastern European. I’ve already been told by one Cornish local who’s hardly ever set foot outside the county that it’s “immigrants” who are wrecking the country. The only immigrants she ever sees are the English (non-white faces being a rarity down here), but of course, these are not the immigrants to whom she refers. Even though some Cornish folk used to apply the term ‘foreigners’ to folks originating from across the county line …

In the words of Joe Strummer, ‘it’s up to you not to heed the call-up.’ Not THIS particular call-up, anyway.

13 comments:

Oliver Shykles said...

Great article (once again).

Out of interest, what's the mix of newspapers down there and which piles are bigger than others in the morning?

And where were those gollywogs made? (I was shocked to find out, while living in Amsterdam, that Sinta Klaus doesn't have elves for helpers but gollywogs.)

Madam Miaow said...

The Guardian runs out before the others. And there's plenty of the Mail, so make of that what you will.

I'll nip in and have a look at where they're made but what's the betting that it's probably somewhere beginning with C and ending in A?

It's all going backwards.

Gwei Mui said...

Hmm is this not in the general area where they celebrate "Darkie Day" it was originally a celebration of some black slaves who gained their freedom ans settled down. Now I think a bastardisation of what it was populated by folks who blackup. Or have I got that wrong? My husband and I were once sitting minding our own Ps and Qs when a lady came up to my husband and said quite calmly, "you remind me of a golliwog (my husband is black by the way)I had as a child" We both sat there mouths slightly opne in shock. Thankfully the landlady (who's a friend of ours) asked the lady to leave. She couldn't understand why!

harpymarx said...

I remember working some years ago in Hertfordshire, mainly around Ware, Cheshunt, and Broxbourne. Ware, especially, gave me the creeps as it was totally white middle class and that unnerved me. A Black woman I met while working there told me that she went to the FE college in Ware sometime in the late 70s/early 80s and she was the only Black person at the college and everyone would stop and stare at her. She, like me, lived in London. She too told me Ware gave her the creeps.
Cheshunt, for example, has a small immigrant population yet the fascists have always historically done well there. The NF had one of their highest polling in Cheshunt circa 1979.

When I worked in Hertfordshire during the late '90s racist attacks had increased in the Broxbourne area and I recall a bloke I worked with who was organising anti-racist/anti-fascist meetings as a way of organising and campaigning and highlighting what was happening in this area.

Ms Chief said...

Swart Piet isn't a gollywog - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet

However still a bit dodgy.

My mum's best friend married a man called Peter who was in the Black and White Minstrel Show in the 70s!

I can't believe you can buy Golliwogs in the 21st century, remember Enid Blyton books where the gollys were bad and criminal?

Ally said...

Hi, great post. The sanctification of Mrs Duffy is one of the most shameful episodes in this election campaign. Brown was played right into the hands of the Tory press - hung drawn and quartered for his lack of conviction, and deservedly so...

Ally said...

Sorry, just to clear up where I stand (vague comments are my speciality!) -

In my opinion should have stuck to his guns, the apology was wrong.

Madam Miaow said...

I agree, Ally. He might as well have stood by his initial instinctive reaction and at least carved out a belated reputation for integrity. And while he was at it, while Labour's going down the pan anyway, he could have promised to tax the rich, protect our services in a meaningful way and maybe got in with a landslide.

Gwei Mui: that's horrible! Your poor hubby.

Harpy and Mx Chief, it just beggars belief.

On a positive note, the older woman assistant in one of the shops was very nice, said it hadn't occurred to her that it might be offensive as she was anti-racist, and confirmed that people like myself are welcome down there. She was quite concerned that Loved One and I were upset. I think most people are not racist, more unthinking, and it's only when you draw their attention to these issues in this sort of way that they realise such things can be hurtful. She also said that the range didn't sell that well, so maybe that says something good about the general public.

Nevin said...

Great Article!

We also have crazy stuff going on here in the US. You must have heard the latest Arizona law where people who look like Mexicans or people a like will be stopped arbitrarily and ask for documentations. It's utterly racist and disturbing...

I have always said and will continue to say... Since 9/11, all the crazies and right wing psychos in Europe, Australia (which has been always extremely racist) and USA are openly acting and saying anti non-white propaganda.... Wave of anti Muslim, Latino, Asian and of course black rhetoric is common place now days...

Mr. Divine said...

So you're back in Cornwall. have you met that cake salesman that disappeared last year? And how is your apartment over looking the harbour, and your little yacht with your name printed on the side. Has any local yokels vandalised them with their golliwogs?

Me its chainsaw season and the broken branches that have fallen when their sap got sapped by the heat of the summer sun are put to the Husquavna sword. And then stacked by the side of the house in readiness for winter. The wicked witch of winter (that's you!) is soon to arrive and the fires shall heat the arses of your followers down under( that's me).

Mr. Divine said...

You could say that the Golliwog was an instrument of good. I remember having a goliwog, collecting those golliwogs off jam labels, and loving the black and white minstrals. I even remember once at uni when I sewed a golliwog to the back of my braces and walked around a real busy motorway service station. You wanna have seen some of the looks.


Anyway you treat your golly like you treat your teddy bear at that edge, with love and affection. it's good training a toddler being nice to a symbol of a person who are a different colour to you at a very impressionable age. Hopefully this will transfer to the real thing, at least it's a start.

Madam Miaow said...

That's a nice sentiment to end on Mr Divine, but the imagery is so loaded with history. The period where you could sum up the black race in one cuddly non-threatening cartoon of real human beings was also an age where slavery was a living memory, when some US states had anti-miscegenation laws (interracial shagging, to you), where black men could be taken out and hanged as entertainment for the picnicking white folks.

The golliwog has a whole lot of other meaning that we shouldn't be reviving..

Mr. Divine said...

Surely the golliwog has nothing to do with hangings beside picnics. I mean how exactly are the two connected?

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