Monday, December 13, 2010

Australian Store Removes Mammy Doll For Oprah Visit

Well, it seems that though some Australians claim that they don't understand the North American standard of racism, some do a very good job of perpetuating it.  Last year, Harry Connick Jr. had to tell Hey Hey It's Saturday Night, that Blackface is extremely offensive.  I won't suggest for one moment that the Australian experience of racism mirrors that of North America; however, when it comes to people of color, the naivety that is often expressed, leaves one incredulous, when examples of said racism become public knowledge.

Oprah is currently in Australia, on a tour paid for by Australian tourism, with her audience members.
Oprah Winfrey’s production company has reportedly asked a Melbourne shop to remove golliwog “washerwoman” dolls from display so that they would not offend the talk show host and her guests.

The storeowner declined to comment because she had signed a confidentiality agreement with Harpo productions, but confirmed a meeting had taken place.

“Oprah’s people came … and yes it was discussed,” the Daily Telegraph quoted a source familiar with the agreement as saying. “As a result, they won’t have that particular doll on display. But there will be plenty of other gollies when they come through.”

A spokeswoman for Winfrey’s Ultimate Adventure declined to comment, but Tourism Victoria claims neither it, nor Harpo Productions, had told the shop owner to remove the doll. (source)

The only purpose of a doll like that is to demean Black women.  Though no one will confirm the story, if Oprah's staff did indeed request the dolls removal, it is highly understandable; however, its removal gives a false impression of race to the viewers watching.  The following are images of the other dolls that are available for purchase at the store in question.


For people not aware of how race functions in the North American context, they are pretty good at ensuring that Blackness is ridiculed and demeaned.  I predict, as with the Duncan Hines Cupcakes, there will be those convinced that these dolls are not racist; however, I suggest that if you cannot see the obvious racism before you, that perhaps your inability to understand the true meaning of these dolls is impacted by a desire to privilege Whiteness and the White experience.

The instances of attacks against POC using a particularly North American context of what it is to be Black, are reoccurring and therefore, I find it ridiculous to suggest that there is no intent behind them.  We no longer live in a world that is extremely divided, thanks in large part to the internet.   Given Australia's particularly vicious attack on its indigenous citizens, it is my belief that some have embraced and indeed internalized images and concepts that further serve to advance the project of White supremacy.  This may not be the image that Australians are striving to present to the world with their 5 million dollar expenditure on Oprah's visit but it is the image that nonetheless exists.  Hiding a golliwog for a day does not indicate tolerance, it is however yet another symbol of a country determined to pretend that White supremacy does not exist.