Yesterday on Jezebel, writer Lindsey West, posed the question of “Why Is Etsy Still Profiting From Racist Nostalgia?”. There are a couple of operative words in that question: still and racist. Apparently, there’s a vast collection of things such as Golliwog dolls, Aunt Jemima and Sambo figurinesAccording to a petition, all of these items are in direct violation of Etsy’s policy, but they’re still allowed to be sold:

Etsy is refusing to follow the policies that they implemented for themselves early last year (2011) that would prohibit the sale of “…items that promote, support, or glorify hatred toward or otherwise demean people based upon: race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation…” The items most strongly in question are Golliwog Dolls or are Golliwog related. They have been reported numerous times to Etsy’s integrity team, however the over 70 items in question remain on the sites of Etsy’s various merchants, many of whom hand make these Golliwog items to order and are not vintage.

This policy is definitely news to me. As a frequent buyer on Etsy, I have actually purchased several vintage postcards that the author would probably refer to as “racist nostalgia”. The postcards had stereotypical images of  Sambo like characters and Mammies. I purchased these postcards because of the time period they’re from and for the historical aspect.

The petition goes on to state:

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of this issue is that that one would be hard pressed to find racist items of any other demographic on Etsy, which begs the question, Why is it okay to sell items that dehumanize and denigrate those that fall into the category of ‘black people’; and would there be the same lack of response were these items offensive toward the LGBTQQ community, or Asian community, or any demography that is “more likely” to be shopping or selling on Etsy? Etsy receives $0.20 for every item listed on their site by merchants and they collect a 3.5% fee on the sale of every item, racist or not. Since Etsy has failed to address this issue it may be safe to assume that they have no scruples about profiting from the very items they prohibit.

The issue I have is that a lot of the items in question may not be vintage. There are patterns being sold for people who’d be interested in making their own Golliwog dolls. Why anyone would want to purchase a pattern to make their own is beyond me.  There is definitely a place for different types of nostalgic items to be bought and sold, but if Etsy has policies then maybe Etsy should abide by their own rules.

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  • Val

    “Why anyone would want to purchase a pattern to make their own is beyond me.”

    Why would a Black woman by racist postcards?

    • Because I collect postcards of all types. Some as old as 100 yrs, which are considered antiques and collectables. Buying a pattern, to make a new item isn’t considered collecting. That’s like me, going to a 3rd world country & taking a picture of, lets say..a child labor slave and making a new postcard out of it. There’s nothing antique about that. If Etsy didn’t have this rule at all, people wouldn’t make an issue about it, but since the rule is there, then it should be abided by.

  • Saw this article on Jez yesterday, and all the comments were on some “Well if black people buy them what’s the big deal?” type bs. I’m Really struggling to understand why anyone black would purchase these pieces? Can someone please explain.

    • bighead

      I can maybe see Museums buying this stuff to show the future generations how far this country has come. These items are not just tokens of depressing memories, but they are items to remind black people to forgive but never forget our past struggles.

      And when it comes to racist nostalgia being profited on, black people aren’t the only ones. People will pay out the wazoo to see the pyramids in Egypt even though they were built by years and years of slavery. I’m sure those humongous monuments offend someone still but do you see anyone fighting for them to be torn down? Why, because of the history.

      I’m not saying that selling them on a site such as this is right, but I, being a history buff, find these items interesting because of the rich history surrounding them, good or bad.

  • YogiPOgi

    i have mammy doll and a prissy doll from gone with the wind. it’s my history even it’s bad history, but my relatives were slaves. i know the history of hattie mcdaniel and during that time there were no other roles for blacks but slaves,servants, i watched many of her movies and she worked hard to put dignity in her roles

  • Stef

    Nothing wrong with buying these types of items, I have a collection from” colored waiting area, sign ( have a no Irish one too) , sambo cards. Etc

    This is vintage items and a serious part of American history that should never be forgotten . Many young people have zero idea that thee types of items ever existed like negro soap.

    Plus the items that date back to the early 20th century go up in value as we get deeper into the 21st century , so it’s also a grat investment