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Shopkeeper refuses to take down offensive dolls

ANGER: Edwards is highly offended by the dolls and the manner they were displayed in the shop

A WOMAN has made a complaint against a shop owner on the Isle of Wight for hanging golliwog dolls in his shop window.

Angela Edwards said she first alerted the police about the so-called ‘Jolly Golly Dolls’ in A Stitch in Time boutique on Cowes because she found them to be offensive, particularly the manner in which they were displayed.

She explained: “They are suspended by a string which runs up from behind their back, or neck past their heads, straight up to a rail across the door. To anyone with any awareness at all of the black experience or of civil rights history, this immediately brings to mind the lynching of black people in the American south.”

Golliwog was a black character in children’s books in the late 19th century, a type of rag doll characterised by black skin, eyes rimmed in white, clown lips and frizzy hair.

However, following World War II, as the struggle for civil rights and racial equality intensified, the dolls were seen as a symbol of racism.

Edwards said: “The officers advised that they would go to the shop to inspect the display…when I telephoned the next day to request an update, I was told that the officers had visited the shop and that the owner had refused to remove or change the display of the offensive items.”

RESPECT

She added: “He understands the offence and doesn’t care. It’s about respect – why offend the ethnic population?”
Edwards told The Voice that it was important to make people aware of the doll’s history.

She said: “The image may seem harmless from a white person’s view, but it is loaded with negative connotations for a black person. It is a gross caricature that reduces minorities to a subhuman level. It was used to diminish and abuse people like my parents and I for a long time.”

She added: “Would a parent be irresponsible to give their five-year-old a golly doll to walk around the street with and not explain the history?”

Edwards, who made a formal complaint at Newport police station, is upset that nothing is being done about the offensive display.

She said: “No statement was taken we were treated dismissively as though we were crazy to take offence and felt as though my concerns were not being taken seriously.”

The Hampshire Constabulary’s Isle of Wight District Deputy Commander Chief, Inspector Julie Fry said: “Hampshire Constabulary treats all allegations of hate crime and incidents with the utmost seriousness.

CONCERNS

“A police officer visited the shop to speak with staff there about the concerns raised. No criminal offences or malicious intentions have been identified. Continued discussions between a police officer and the business owner reached a voluntary agreement where staff will now display the dolls in a different way.”

According to Inspector Fry, “We took this action as part of our commitment to encourage mutual understanding and respect within the communities we serve.”

Edwards, who has lived on the Isle of Wight for 15 years, said although the shop keeper had agreed to no longer suspend the dolls by a string, they still remained in the display window.

She added: “I can’t stop him from selling them…but I would rather not see [the dolls].”

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