A BBC interview with a black history campaigner will not be aired because the man in question was wearing a “racist” golliwog doll around his neck.
Chaka Artwell was due to be interviewed by the BBC in regard to a campaign to save Temple Cowley pools in Oxford, but when the black history campaigner arrived at the city to be interviewed by BBC South Today reporter Tom Turrell, the broadcasting giant was concerned about the soft toy Chaka was wearing around his neck.
The soft toy was in fact a golliwog. Concerned that it would deeply offend viewers, they asked Mr. Artwell to remove the offending item. Mr. Artwell refused, and the BBC called an end to the interview.
Mr. Artwell explained to the Daily Mail, “The BBC asked me to remove my friend and I said ‘why?'”
“They told me it would distract from my story and I said I didn’t think it would because I am a passionate speaker. They said they would not do the interview unless I removed my dear friend, and I am really upset about it.”
BBC spokesman Meera Hindocha explained that the BBC acted purely out of respect for the sensitivities of their viewers.
“We asked him to remove the large doll because it would distract viewers in a discussion about a local swimming pool and some viewers may have found it offensive. When he refused to do so we used another contributor.”
The golliwog or golly first emerged as black character in children’s books in the late 19th century, and is usually depicted as a rag doll. Golliwog dolls were named after a blackface minstrel-like character in Florence Kate Upton and Bertha Upton’s 1895 book. After the publication of Upton’s first book, the term “golliwog” (and “wog”) was used both as a reference to the children’s toy and as a derogatory slang term for black people.
The toys were enormously popular in England and elsewhere in the first half of the 20th century, but they fell out of fashion around the start of the civil rights era in the 1960s. Some believe images of gollies are an enduring symbol of racism against people of African descent, but Mr. Artwell begs to differ.
“When I was growing up in this country, this guy was a popular figure. Then, without anyone asking me if I was offended by it, people decided I was offended by it. White, middle-class liberal types decided I was offended by this guy and in the year 2015 I don’t want people telling me what I should be offended by. People pick and chose what they want to highlight. This is ridiculous.”
Nigerian-born Oxford City Councillor Ben Lloyd-Shogbesan said he “did not have a clue” where Mr. Artwell was coming from.
“Personally I find this image offensive because I think it demeans the image of black people. I think he was trying to make a point but on the wrong basis and I think it shows a lack of sensitivity to people who don’t like that image. I would have said to him ‘you might not find it offensive, but a lot of people do – so maybe find another medium to have that conversation?”
What do you think? Was the BBC right to deny Mr. Artwell the oxygen of publicity because he personally doesn’t believe in the general consensus surrounding what to him and many others is simply a well-loved soft toy from bygone days?