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Castles & Golliwogs

We'd been in the Watermouth Family Theme Park in North Devon for all of ten minutes before I spotted a demon-like Black caricature on the mantle of the Victorian replica kitchen. I couldn't tell whether the "thing" was intended to be a person or an animal, but I guess that's the point.

As I took several pictures on my iPhone, I wondered why someone thought this item was okay to display in 2021. Throughout the day, we passed several other Black people, young Black children, and other people of color. Each time I saw them, I wondered whether they'd seen the same hideous object that I had. After several conversations with my wife, it was clear I was going to chat with whoever was in charge and ask if they realized the offensiveness of the item.

At the end of our trip, I asked to speak with the manager — and a man by the name of Richard came to meet me. As I brought the vile object to his attention, he asked me to direct him to the location. As a family venue, Richard assured me there were no intentions of making anyone feel uncomfortable. Upon reaching the room, I pointed to the mantle, and Richard quickly removed the object. To my surprise, Richard admitted to the Castle gift shop selling "Golliwogs" several years earlier before they received a similar complaint of the offensiveness of these objects.

Golliwogs are doll-like characters created by a white cartoonist/author in the late 19th century. The books were successful in England (due to the Golliwog), and these objects were later reproduced commercially as children's toys (U.K., Australia, Germany, and elsewhere). Since the early 2000s, there have been various incidents (U.K.) where the offensiveness of these objects has been brought into question.

Before exiting the Castle, we stopped in the manager's office, where we found the part-owner (Jonathan) sat at his desk. As I shared my thoughts, Jonathan listened, then asked me if I knew that the items were still being reproduced. I replied, "no," and proceeded to exit the castle that prides itself as a premier family attraction.

Jonathan/Richard, I'll be checking in with you next week to ensure that the hideous item is removed.

Keep fighting the fight people.

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