Regarding Robertson's Golliwogg
Today I was browsing the internet and came across several sites relating to the Robertson's
Golliwogg, including this site.
It is sad to see a site where reference is made to the golliwogg as a racist symbol.
I can assure you, that growing up with golliwogg pins in Ireland in the 50's, 60's
and early 70's, I never once heard anything racial or demeaning said about people
of colour because of them. If it wasn't a race issue back then, why did it become
a race issue in later years?
Irish imigrant to the United States were refused jobs because they were Irish and
also had to endure, even to this day, uncomplimentary Irish jokes. Instead of using
it as an excuse for everything that was wrong with their lives, they held their heads
high, backs straight and forged ahead. I have not seen any reference to this form
of discrimination or bigotry in any of your American museums. In fact, I doubt if
Irish imigrants really gave a damn what people think of them. I grew up in Ireland
in troubled times and have had personal experience with discrimination, but I would
never allow it to cloud my life or future.
Sadly, it seems people of colour in the United States do not seem to be able to move
forward with their lives. They seem more content to live in the past and dwell on
the past atrocities of white America and believe me, I for one, believe there were
many. What a waste of time and effort!
I currently live in Canada and I am proud to call myself a Canadian, having attained
Canadian citizenship more than 30 years ago. I am proud of my Irish heritage, but
do not deem it necessary to call myself Irish-Canadian. The same cannot be said of
Americans of colour. Instead of being proud Americans, no they must be referred to
as African-Americans, although most have never set foot on African soil. Where are
the priorities? Where are the role models? Where are the leaders?
A persons skin colour, country of birth or religion have absolutely no bearing on
how I see them. However, I do have zero tolerance for self-induced stupidity, paranoia
and self-pity as a replacement for self-worth and personal pride.
And to think a little golliwog pin could have that much power. What am I missing???
-- April 14, 2008
Response from John Thorp
The Golliwog was well established in British colonial history (to put down people
of color being colonized) by the time Robertson's started using their version, and
you encountered it in the 50's, 60's, and early 70's. That is was not considered racist
in your circle is not surprising if your circle was made up entirely of white people.
Until the Civil Rights Movement in the United States white people blithely consumed
these kinds of images without giving a single thought to their origins or effects
We do have anti-Irish items in our collection but do not have them on display. Like
the Irish, African Americans went about achieving their own goals despite the Jim
Crow system of segregation and second class citizenship that made this achievement
much more difficult for them than the Irish immigrants who quickly came to be considered
white because they could blend in.
Our collection is not about real African Americans, but about the white imagination
that portrayed them in a multitude of demeaning ways (only one of which was the Golliwog)
both in the past and still today. Your generalization that people of colour in the
United States do not seem able to move forward with their lives is not based on fact.
Because you do not know of African Americans priorities, role models and leaders,
does not mean that they do not exist.
During and after slavery many white people labored mightily to force upon African
Americans a sense of "self-induced stupidity, paranoia and self-pity as a replacement
for self-worth and personal pride." It didn't work as an objective reading of the
history of African-Americans reveals.
John P. Thorp, Ph.D.
Director, Jim Crow Museum