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 figurines. According 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.