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Gollywogs - is this guy for real?.


Kavi Ugl
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I think that Shetlanders are among some of the most friendly helpful folk I have met. That there are a lot of people who came from other cultures who have genuinely made a place for themselves here. But I don't feel that they have the same freedom of expression as 'native' Shetlanders. 

 

That we live in a world with a lot of people, and it's not always 'political correctness', it's simply 'not being a thoughtless a$$h.le.'

 

First off, I'm not a native Shetlander but, I still express myself freely and without reservation.

 

Secondly, I do not spend my life worrying about any 'accidental' actions on my part that may not be politically correct because 'I don't do PC' and have no intention of ever being knowingly coerced into anything other that my natural way of thinking/acting but, are you saying that, by implication, Mrs Leask is a "thoughtless a$$h.le" ? If so, doesn't that comment, by your own standards, put you in the same category?

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I think we'll leave name calling and the like to less educated electronic mediums and those that frequent such don't you all think? Even if such contains the fruits of everyone's current bile. Let's rise above.

 

[birses even harder on the community self moderation button]

 

Ach, min. I'll hae ta blaw da stoor aff o' me Thesaurus an Dictionary if Im ta try an mak it ony floorier dan yun.

 

Weel try an no let da birse gyt risen ony farder tho. ;-)

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There has been no real attempt to tackle the race side, plenty on how he went about it. Telling him he is mistaken about the way he feels.

 

He can feel anything he likes, the fact is he was passing through for less than five minutes, so his feelings are rather irrelevant. If he was offended enough not to come back, I think we'll manage to live quite happily and without deprivation not to enjoy his presence here again. Especially as just about no-one I've spoken to knew he was coming, let alone that he'd been.

 

Coloured people have been resident in Shetland as long as that shop has had that stock, and he's by no means the first coloured person to pass through here since that shop has had that stock either, yet he is the first coloured person to make a fuss about it. The only conclusion that can be reached from that evidence is that coloured people who are offended to any significant degree by golliwogs are few and far between, and quite frankly, if those who are are in any way of character like this one, we can well do without both them and their extremist opinions.

 

 

I think that if you're part of a minority in a small community you're unlikely to start pointing out things that make you uncomfortable. I've seen it happen- folk laughing and playing along with racist comments so they don't isolate themselves, so they 'fit in'. I think it's wrong that they feel like they have to do that. But I can understand why the folk that live here might not want to make a big deal about it. 

 

Sometimes it takes someone from outside a community to point out problematic aspects. I'm not saying that Lem went about it in the best way, but I still think the general point is valid.

 

How can you tell they're "playing along" and its not their genuine reaction, some coloured people really don't give a damn about so called "racist" rhetoric, and if they have anything to do with it at all they use it for their own amusement.

 

I went to the AHS with a coloured guy 35 years ago, and his party piece was to dare, or at least tempt folk who didn't really know him to say or do something "racist" to him, assuring them beforehand that it was "okay" and he wouldn't be bothered, but as soon as they gave in and did so, he'd come over pretty heavy pretending to be all deeply offended and insulted just to see how far he could get them wound up, until he got bored or could keep it together no longer and burst out laughing at his "victim".

 

I think it needs saying too, that if someone is more concerned about "fitting in" than protesting that they've been insulted, the level of "insult" they feel must be quite superficial.

Edited by Ghostrider
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FinnBlack wrote "I've seen it happen- folk laughing and playing along with racist comments so they don't isolate themselves, so they 'fit"

 

surely its the context of what is being said that is the important thing in such a situation, for instance I'm one of the least sexist people you could meet and if i come across someone who displays genuine sexism towards someone in the workplace or home i wont hesitate to shout them down, but in a group of friends having a laugh i can come across as a throwback to 1950s male chauvinism if the situation arises that we're having a conversation about sexism and i know my friends will take it in the humour intended.

 

this is the same way I view these dolls, although they may when used in a certain context be a vessel for racism, the mere act of being doesn't automatically make them or the possession of one an act of racism. Also when you consider that the dolls were seen in one of the photos next to a picture of Muhammad Ali after he's knocked out an opponent, a photo that shows a great symbol and an amazing person in the fight against racism, i find it quite hard to believe that an accusation of racism should then be thrown in the direction of the shops owner and at Shetland in general.

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.... i find it quite hard to believe that an accusation of racism should then be thrown in the direction of the shops owner and at Shetland in general.

I think you'll find that at no point did Lemn Sissay throw accusations of racism 'at Shetland in general'. He has been nothing but complimentary about 'Shetland in general'

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I've just had a read through several Facebook discussions about this debacle and the comments section of the Shetland Times and at this moment I genuinely feel a little embarrassed to be a Shetlander.

 

Grown men calling him "Lemon Sissy" and "lemon head" on his Facebook page, numerous racist apologists, a call for the English Defence League to sort him out on the Shetland Times page (thankfully now moderated, but someone allowed it to be published in the first place), people slagging of his work who by their own admission have never read any of it, frothy mouthed attacks of the 'PC Brigade', thinly veiled threats of violence..... Absolutely pathetic. Sad, sad times folks.

I can see both sides of the argument but it seems to me that the level of ignorance displayed by some of those attacking Mr Sissay (and anyone else who may share his opinion on Golliwogs) is only matched by the level restraint shown by those on the other side of the fence.

 

Shetlink is sometimes knocked for anonymity and pointless moaning but this thread seems to be the most reasoned debate on the subject.

As an interesting aside, most folk who I've discussed this with believe that Golliwogs do, at best, have racist connotations. I'd be interested to see the results of a poll on the subject, although the wording of the question would itself be contentious and I have no idea how to start a poll! What do you guys think?

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.... i find it quite hard to believe that an accusation of racism should then be thrown in the direction of the shops owner and at Shetland in general.

I think you'll find that at no point did Lemn Sissay throw accusations of racism 'at Shetland in general'. He has been nothing but complimentary about 'Shetland in general'

 

 

I disagree, judging by the comments he's made on his blog, his Facebook page and in the comments he's made in The Shetland Times, including this:-

 

"It is wondrous to read your comments. I too had golliwogs as a child. I collected the stickers from Robertson Jam jars and I collected both badges and figurines.

I do not understand what political correctness is. I have a sense of right and wrong. It is nothing more than that.

Mrs Leask knows precisely what she is doing and she has been told about it before. She is making an agressive and opinionated and knowledgable stance by putting the Gollies in the window.

I think she enjoys the attention. She is looking for heroine status. And for that to happen I ust be characterised as the big bad ousider. It’s just not the case I’m afraid. There is a reason I did not respond to the confrontational nature of her shop window display. It’s because I’m a nice guy. Calling me a coward only shows your character not mine.

I can guarantee you this. The Gollywogs will not be removed from the window. But what is good for the spirit of Shetland, a great island, a contemporary island known throughout the world, an island with great history, a land of survivors, fighters… but not alas self sufficiency. we all need each other.

I am not a bully and I am not the agressor here. You are being sold a bad idea. I am not frightened of racism. I am hurt by it. Wounded by it. I ahve a history too and my history is your history and your history is my history. We are connected. we are brother and sister. e need each other. We need critique. And that is what I offer you as a gift.

As a professional writer it is a great risk for me to have written that blog because I will probably lose work because of it. But I did it for you and for young black and white boys and girls so that they could feel at ease… the next generation, the one that feeds the island with new thoughts, new life, grown from what has gone before…"

Why do we need his "gift" then if he isn't implying we're racist by permitting a Shetland shopkeeper to sell golliwogs?  He "did it for you and for young black and white boys and girls so that they could feel at ease ... the next generation, the one that feeds the islands ..." - he's lecturing us.  As I stated earlier, given that he resides in England, he is guilty of imperial racism. In addition, we don't share the same history aka 'his story', we are all unique and some of us have 'her story'; yet he continues to spout 'his story' about his visit to Shetland and in doing so, he's implying we're racists by association if we don't agree with 'his story' of events and the reason why he created 'his story' in the manner that he did.  That's all history is, someone's story. Quite frankly, I don't think he's fit to hold an MBE.  Did he act honourably?  I don't think so.

 

And can we reclaim the golliwog as a toy in a positive format?  It is said that Enid Blyton wrote about them, and by doing so portrayed black people in a bad light.  That's an interpretation of a book, isn't it?  In comparison, I feel unease when I hear 'getting down to the nitty gritty', given that it relates to women being raped on the slave ships.  Then we have 'son of a gun, originating from prostitutes working on ships and giving birth under the guns, and having 'son of a gun' listed on the birth certificates.  Do we go around asking for 'nitty gritty' to be banned or do we accept that language and hence the meaning of 'nitty gritty' has evolved?  Do we accept that 'son of gun' no longer means what it did back then?

 

So we're expected to grant Lemn Sissay poetic licence but not to grant it to Enid Blyton?  The golliwog is a toy; 'getting down to the nitty gritty' was an act and 'son of a gun' a description attached to an act.

Edited by unlinkedstudent
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With the greatest respect, I've read your post several times and I genuinely can't fathom what your point is, let alone how you arrived at it. I've read much (most?) of his comments on the subject and I saw no evidence of him accusing Shetlanders or Shetland of being racist.

 

To be honest it seems to me that you're just trying to put words in his mouth.

 

Perhaps you can provide some direct evidence or quotes?

Edited by Davie P
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Perhaps you can provide some direct evidence or quotes?

 

I did quote him.  Besides, he is reported as saying  "she was guilty of “wilful racism†for selling golliwog toys."  I ask again, why would we need his 'gift' if he didn't deem us to be racist?

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He did not say Shetland was a racist place or that all Shetlanders were. As ever, the text has been manipulated to prove a personal point. What is documented on here and in other threads is Shetlanders concerned that there is an underlying issue with race with some, one has said it is blatant.

I guess it is about living memory. We all happily use the term "nitty-gritty" without knowing its uses in the past.

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With the greatest respect, I've read your post several times and I genuinely can't fathom what your point is, let alone how you arrived at it. I've read much (most?) of his comments on the subject and I saw no evidence of him accusing Shetlanders or Shetland of being racist.

 

To be honest it seems to me that you're just trying to put words in his mouth.

 

Perhaps you can provide some direct evidence or quotes?

 

Perhaps you could make a start by going back to Mr Sissays blog and reading it very carefully and make sure that you understand exactly what he is saying.

 

One comment in particular caused me to voice my opinions

 

"Mrs Leask knows precisely what she is doing and she has been told about it before. She is making an agressive and opinionated and knowledgable stance by putting the Gollies in the window."

 

Despite his claims to the contrary, the first sentence of the quote is nothing more than bullying by Mr Sissay.

 

"she has been told about it before" implies that Mrs Leask is not entitled to hold her own opinion on what is, or is not, racist and that the opinion that matters most in respect of her shop window display is Mr Sissays who, it would appear, has been 'wounded' by her decision to ignore him.

 

He (Mr Sissay) then goes on to accuse Mrs Leask (without actually using the word) of being 'racist' with the comment from the second sentence

"She is making an agressive and opinionated and knowledgable stance by putting the Gollies in the window."

 

Sorry if you think that I might b preaching a little but, when you read something that you might want to comment on, it is a good idea to try and understand exactly what you have read.

Edited by Colin
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This week I went and bought a Golly from this lovely lady. I actually went for something else. While there I noticed a witch toy with a hook nose. No doubt a Jewish poet will now claim racial stereotypes for this being on sale. Then there is the 'protect the troll society' worried about their image when some are scary and frighten children and others are friendly. Also the electricity board could object to her sale of oil lamps as it suggests the possibility of needing them for powercuts and this could cause distress to those without any. some of her vintage toys represent war and this could be distressing to pacifists. Also lack of money distresses me since I can't afford most of it. Since this shop is potentially causing so much distress I recommend its closure along with all other shops where distress may be caused to some one somewhere. Thus all shops selling clothes in sizes too small for me must close with immediate effect. Now obviously I don't mean this but what I do want to say is grow up. Everyday there is something disagreeable and distressing in some way, its life and not worth getting distressed over. This man has a different upbringing, a different culture he sees racism in things where others do not. Reading his blog he comes over as bitter and angry so he wishes to project this on to others. Lets waste no more time on him and his sad world. we live in a better place.

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Just had a thought, Now what would happen if some body started making gollys with yellow , red or white faces, would some body find something to complain about or would it just be classed as another doll .. 

It would depend on the context, say, a white faced "golly" dressed in black and white striped clothes with a number tattoed on the arm may offend. A chinese paddyfield worker "golly" dressed as a POW that comes with train tracks, that too may offend.

 

The thing is, it is that particular way of presenting a doll that links it to past events.

 

Stuck about the red faces though.

 

Still, ridiculing some one because they have a feeling about a certain "doll" could be seen as insensitive.

 

You never know, this may go national.

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