13 December 2013…..On the morning of 28th of November, 2013 Cllr Dawn Barnett and a few supporters assembled at Hove Town Hall for ‘the Inquisition’ aimed at condemning Cllr Barnett’s defence of golliwogs as having brought Brighton & Hove City Council into disrepute. Very sadly, Cllr Barnett fell down the stairs just minutes before the meeting was to begin, got carted off to hospital in an ambulance, and the meeting had to be postponed.
The meeting has been rescheduled for 10:30am, Thursday, 19th December, Hove Town Hall
Sadly I cannot provide a link to the agenda here. And sadder still, the decision has been taken to treat the entire agenda and meeting as Part 2 business which means no press or public is allowed to attend and bear witness…….unless of course, on the day, the panel decide they will open it to press and public. That is a decision available to them…on the day. To re-schedule the meeting to be held in secret is a bit too Guantanamo Bay for comfort, suggesting that council officers are now in a flap about this debacle and certain people feel they have to defensively hide something. Two articles in the Argus, and the big one on here giving historic context about the origin of golliwogs that is NEVER properly referenced by people seeking to use golliwogs as a weapon of hate, attracted a lot of attention. The fact is the emails and letters of complaint were made public and remain in the public domain, in spite of the original agenda having been removed from the council website and no replacement agenda being provided for public referencing.
Who has demanded the hearing be held in secret? What have they got to hide? What about Cllr Barnett’s rights in all this? And the rights of the public who are paying for it?
Many believe it is the two BHCC council officers, one council tenant and their Black & Minority Ethnic Workers’ Forum, squandering council resources and time, who bring the council into disrepute. And there has been online talk of putting in a standards complaint about them, which may or may not have been followed up with action. Are the Black & Minority Ethnic Workers Forum, along with other Brighton & Hove City Council officials, guilty of abuse of power? Some people think so.
Is a golliwog or the appreciation of golliwogs racist? If so, why are they still legal?
Is the flag of St. George a fascist, far right, National Front or BNP flag? Or is the English national flag abused when used for far right purposes or wielded in support of the England football team? Has its identity as the English flag become forfeit? Should the practitioners of the Hindu religion or Buddhist religion be required to give up their svastika – an ancient life appreciating symbol – because Hitler and his Nazis took a fancy to it, adopted it for their logo, and called it a swastika? Surely not.
Surely it is the negative/positive use of symbols that matters and not the symbols themselves that constitute offensive behaviour. Golliwogs have been wielded and hijacked for racist purposes, but they are not, in themselves racist. A read of the book that invented old Golly makes that clear. The gorgeous Robertson’s jam golliwog rag doll brooches showed Golly in various guises – golfer, doctor, policeman..,how is that racist?
Even Golly’s costume is considered racist by the sociology professor referenced in the original golliwog article on this site. Why? Designers and illustrators take influences from lots of places if it looks a fun thing to do. And it is very likely true that the Golliwog’s costume came from wandering minstrels of the 19th century. The designer was born and lived in the USA until age 14, but was from an English family who brought her back to England for the duration. 40 years ago my black laquered Japanese wooden clogs were ‘shoes’ to jam sloppy woolly sock-covered feet into; and an antique Japanese man’s kimono was used for an overcoat to wear over fashionable long patchwork skirts. I loved them so, so, SO much. Was that racist? Or was it nostalgia? And admiration. Why is it racist for a rag doll to have a black cloth face and Afro hair but not racist for a Barbie doll to be pinky and etiolated, with stiff yellow plastic hair?
It is suggested by complainants against Cllr Barnett that she undergo Equalities and Diversity Training. Does that training include sensitivity training for black and minority ethnic people towards white European diversity and cultural issues and values that must also have respect and equality within the overall life of this country? How valid is the set of complaints by council officers and a council tenant against Cllr Barnett? Does it constitute a hate crime or bullying of her? This isn’t just about golliwogs, is it.