Last week, an Essex pub was raided over a “hate crime” investigation into the owner’s collection of golliwog dolls on display.
Golliwog dolls were created by Florence Kate Upton in 1895 based on a character from her children’s books. They have long been considered controversial due to their depiction of black people with frizzy hair, big lips, and large white teeth.
After the raid, the owner of the White Hart Inn, Benice Ryley, obtained new golliwog dolls donated by supporters and vowed to put them back on display — along with a warning at the door that people who take offense should keep out.
“I’m getting a notice printed saying ‘We’ve got gollies on display, if you find this offensive please don’t come in’. If they don’t like them they can walk out the door,” Ryley told the Guardian.
On March 1, the alleged “hate crime” victim entered the bar and complained about the dolls being on display.
“The police told me he was the victim of an alleged hate crime,” Ryley said.
This is the second time a complaint has been made about the dolls, with the first being in 2018.
“The police was not interested then. So why are they interested now? And why would they come and seize my dolls,” Ryley asked. “It’s a complete waste of police time. When they were here something came through on the police radio and they said sorry we can’t attend that at the moment.”
A nearby shopkeeper, who is black, told the Guardian that he plans on going to confront Ryley about the dolls as well.
“I find them very offensive and I’ll be going there to peacefully put my point across and to educate her. I grew up in Tottenham in the 70s when we fought against those kind of things. They used to call black people golliwogs. It’s a racist symbol that says slavery to me and the black and white minstrels. It’s so outdated and offensive to black people.”
Ryley has denied that she or her husband, Chris Ryley, are racist. She maintains that she simply likes the dolls.
According to The Guardian, it is “potentially illegal” for her to display the dolls.
The report states that “Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, behaviour that is racially aggravated is an offence if at the time ‘the offender demonstrates towards the victim hostility based on the victim’s membership or presumed membership of a racial or religious group.’ Sailesh Mehta, a barrister at Red Lion Chambers, said: ‘Even displaying them, it could be argued, is an incitement to racial hatred.’ He added: ‘If I were to have a big slogan in my pub that’s defamatory towards black people, then in principle [that] could amount to incitement to racial hatred, and so it becomes a hate crime.'”