The owner and customers of a Long Sutton cafe have defended its sale and display of golliwogs as “earning the community a little bit of pocket money”.
Mal’s Vintage Tea Shop, in Market Place, had a collection of golliwogs (gollies) made in Long Sutton on display when a customer came in on Good Friday.
The customer contacted the Lincolnshire Free Press to “express my disgust that a cafe in Long Sutton is selling golliwog dolls”.
“I was in there on Friday (April 14) [when] they had a large display of different-sized dolls and someone actually purchased one whilst I was there,” the customer said.
“Hopefully, some pressure from the community might stop the proprietor from thinking it is acceptable to sell such offensive items”.
She added: “My shock and dismay at seeing the Golliwogs in the shop was mainly down to them being an outdated symbol of racial prejudice and stereotyping. It seems like a provocative and insensitive move to have them broadly on display in a shop. Who would even want to purchase one given their controversial history?”
I understand the potential for people to be offended by the gollies but I hope this won’t spoil the excitment of having Mal’s Vintage Tea Shop in Long SuttonMP John Hayes
Mal Jenkins, who opened the cafe in September 2016, said: “I just find it very odd because we have all the history of the gollies with the display.
“I was brought up with them and if people read up on what they mean, they would find that gollies started when the English military were in Eqypt.
“All the crafts here are made by people in the local community for me to put on display as it earns the local community a little bit of pocket money.
“It didn’t even enter my head that the gollies would offend anyone and I wish the customer would have come and spoken to me, as I would have told them the history of gollies.”
Mal was supported by a customer, who spoke to the Free Press on Saturday, but asked not to be named for fear of possible repercussions for the cafe.
The customer said: “All Mal is doing is trying to help craftspeople in the community make a little bit of pocket money and to offer more things.
“Mal’s not committing any crime, just offering the space for people to display their wares.”
Another past customer of Mal’s, South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes, said: “It’s lovely to see the business set up in what was Pat’s Flowers, a much-loved shop in Long Sutton.
“I understand the potential for people to be offended by the gollies but I hope this won’t spoil the excitment of having Mal’s Vintage Tea Shop in Long Sutton.”
Nicola Hay, campaign manager at anti-racism education charity Show Racism the Red Card, said: “We are extremely saddened to hear that a shop is selling golli dolls.
“The sale of these dolls perpetuate racism as they hark back to a time when the mockery and stereotyping of black people was considered a social norm rendering black people as submissive and lesser.
“We urge the public to refrain from buying such overtly racist items and we hope the shop selling the dolls would consider taking them out of the store as one cannot profit on the oppression of an entire community.
“In a multicultural and ethnically diverse country, such items no longer have a place.”
COMMENT BY REPORTER WINSTON BROWN
For some people, golliwogs represent a bygone age of marmalade, minstrels and children’s books by Enid Blyton.
To others, these “Jim Crow” or “ethnic” dolls are the very opposite of the words found in the USA’s Declaration of Independence written 240 years ago:-
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights... among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The acid test when it comes to golliwogs is simply this: why issue a disclaimer for a supposedly harmless product which reads “I mean no harm”, as the cafe does, in a poem called “From the Heart of Golly” hung next to these wretched pieces of cloth?