Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Florence K. Upton's


WARNING

These decks contain images that may be considered
racially and ethnically offensive by today's standards. 

Nonetheless... 
THIS IS A STORY OF LOVE.

The Minstrel-show origins of the Golliwogg are absolutely, 100 percent racist.… but this is not a story about mean-spirited characterizations of race or individuals. This is the story of one child’s doll.

NO DOLL IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WAS EVER MADE OR GIVEN TO A CHILD IN THE SPIRIT OF HATRED. A doll exists for no other reason than to provide comfort to a child and to be the repository of that child’s love. The color of the cloth it's made from is “immaterial.” Love is “cloth-blind.” As with other types of rag dolls, most golliwogg dolls were hand-made out of available scraps by loving mothers and grandmothers to give to their children and grandchildren.

The fantasy character in Florence Upton’s books does not characterize or represent any race or individual. He does not even represent a human being — he has no fingers on his hands. This is the story of dolls who come to life and have wonderful adventures together. Mister Golliwogg can not help the fact that his appearance has its origins in racist caricature; his character is that of an innocent born into a world where innocence is such a scarce commodity that no one will believe in it.

This is the possibly uncomfortable incongruity that I ask you to accept: though born of hatred into a world where everyone always thinks the worst of someone without even attempting to look into their hearts, Mr. Golli brings only love into the world.

Can you say the same thing about yourself?

I made this deck because I love, without reserve, the stories and art of Florence K. Upton, and all of the characters in the books that she wrote and illustrated -- in the same way and for the same reasons that I love the Oz characters created by L. Frank Baum and the Raggedy Ann characters created by Johnny Gruelle. Because she failed to protect her work legally, other artists (less talented and considerably more mean-spirited) were able to co-opt her characters and present them in, to put it mildly, less flattering terms. This deck is not about any of those other iterations of the character. This deck is about the beautiful and good-hearted books created by Florence K. Upton.

Conversation is good. Anything that encourages the free exchange of ideas and opinions is good. These images are both striking and controversial, not the least because there are reasonable people standing on both sides of the issue, all over the world. I ask people to look past their own preconceptions and to see the positive messages contained in these images.

bigot |ˈbiɡət|
noun
a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions

A few uninformed, misinformed, misguided and judgemental people are trying to force me to discontinue publishing this deck. They are basing their hatred upon an entire history of racial imagery, and refusing to examine Ms. Upton's work on its own merits, refusing to look beneath the surface, refusing to examine the ACTUAL CONTENT of the deck, refusing to look at the CHARACTER behind the COLOR. This, to me, is the definition of True Racism. They do not understand that even racist art can be used to non-racist effect (I would advise them to watch Spike Lee's brilliant film BAMBOOZED: it is a Great American Movie that has been largely silenced by the film industry and ignored by audiences). They refuse to allow ANY defense, and they believe they have the right to decide what is and is not permissible in our incredibly diverse modern culture. 

Political Correctness has a definite and positive role to play in LIFE, where it is otherwise known as THE GOLDEN RULE. But -- Political Correctness has NO role to play in ART, where it is otherwise known as Censorship. Please note that I believe Censorship is as great an Evil as Bigotry; and possibly a greater one, because it encourages Bigotry and is in fact the preferred tool of Bigots, Fascists, Religious Zealots, Nazis and other people the world over who want nothing more than to deny history and prevent free and open discourse. Whatever you feel about the content of this deck, censorship is not and can not be the answer. Decide for yourself how YOU feel, and then allow others the same privilege.  

In his book Buy Golly! (New Cavendish Books, 2005), author Clinton Derricks writes, "If people disagree with a product, they have to learn to deal with it in a mature and adult way. A ban infringes on artists' rights to express themselves freely." I highly recommend Derricks's book to all, as it does not fail to look at all the profound issues associated with the Golliwogg. Derricks is an African-American actor and musician who has been collecting golliwogg and black memorabilia for over thirty years. In the forward to his book, he writes: "The golliwog's links with slavery and racial prejudice may prove to be unpalatable and uncomfortable to some, though I stand by my every word. My affection for the golliwog is not based purely on artistic appreciation, but derives from love and respect for my culture and its historical associations. Everyone has their reasons for loving or disliking golliwogs and we should recognise that we are all entitled to our own opinions." 

If after after all this you still don't understand where I'm coming from with this deck, I invite you to look around at all the other pages and projects on my website: especially the other Playroom Oracles (which might help clarify the Antiquarian context of the series), my main site www.tarotbyducksoup.com and my blog www.ducksoup.me .