Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Gollywog and Racial Awareness

Golly what a fuss over Carol Thatcher using the term Gollywog. She has apologised and said she meant nothing offensive by it. If from what I have been able to read is true, then she was saying a tennis player reminded her of a Gollywog.

Well I have a friend who being tall slender, large busted with long blonde hair reminds me of a Barbie doll. She is not offended and I mean no offense when I call her Barbie doll. She is secure in her intelligence; is comfortably appreciative with her appearance. "No side to her" would have been one of the comments my mother would have used. I am envious that someone can be so attractive with no artificial enhancements. Will anyone report me for making 'offensive remarks' if they over hear me saying that Angela's a 'Barbie Doll'?

I well remember the picture of the Robertson's Gollies on jars of jams and marmalade. We collected the badges. There is no way that either my sister or I saw them as being linked in any way with the black children we went to school with and who were often invited home for tea after school. They were our friends. But Golliwogs, Robertson's Golly, Teddy, Rupert Bear and Barbie etc were much loved 'toys'.

Growing up in Croydon in the 1950's I was never aware of any racial issues or prejudices in my family. "Do as you would be done by" was another of my mothers beliefs. People were people as far as our family were concerned. Some good, some bad. Some were friends, some bullied you, some had awful manners and some you would like as friends but felt in awe of them. For me one of the girls I would have like to have known better was called Anna Blake. She was tall black slender, quiet and gentle manners and always dressed much more smartly than I. She looked like a remote Princess but I was too shy to try talking to her. As I was with another school girl. White (well, pale pink) Joyce Roberts was sporty and, I thought, more intelligent than I. As I was particularly non sporty I felt we'd have nothing in common. Again shyness held me back.

But all this political correctness is beginning to make me very racially aware. When i was young it was considered polite to call people coloured. Black was considered rude, racist and reminiscent of the slave trade. I resent the fact that I can no longer look at non whites as just 'people'. I can't stare in wonder if they are dressed in an exotically foreign costume. I no longer feel comfortable meeting non white British people. I am so afraid of saying something that will be taken the wrong way. I invariably smile when I catch a stranger's eye as we pass in the street. But if it should be a black or Asian person I stifle any smile as I am afraid it will be misconstrued or seen as patronising.

I remember a black staff nurse I used to work with in Mayday hospital c 1960s. As we were walking back to work one lunchtime she said that she forgets she's black until she sees someone staring at her. I told her I assumed they were 'staring at us because we're 2 pretty girls'. I'm not sure what I would say today.

I also know what it is like to be in the minority. A few years ago I became lost in Thornton Heath trying to find the house where I was born. As I waited near Thornton Heath pond for traffic lights to change I realised that everyone was looking at me. I was the only white (well, very very pale pink actually) person for as far as my eye could see. I felt uncomfortable. I'm sure I would have been more confident in this situation in the 1960/70's.


Henry North London said...

Have you seen my post?

ladythinker said...

Henry - I'm on my way over . .

ladythinker said...

Henry - it was well worth the trip - Im still smiling - very clever . .