Councillor found guilty of misconduct for saying golliwogs are not racist

Posted On 19 Dec 2013 at 4:45 pm

A councillor has been found guilty of misconduct for saying that golliwogs were nostalgic not racist.

Councillor Dawn Barnett was found to have brought her office into disrepute by what one councillor described as a “kangaroo court” sitting in secret at Hove Town Hall. Another described it as a “political show trial”.

The public were cleared from the room as a Brighton and Hove City Council Standards Hearing Panel listened to the evidence for three hours and then decided the case.

The complaints were prompted by comments made by Councillor Barnett to an Argus reporter in August about objections to the sale of golliwog placemats in Bert’s Home Store.

Councillor Barnett told the Argus that golliwogs were nostalgic, not racist, and complaints about them were “political correctness gone too far”.

Councillor Dawn Barnett

Councillor Dawn Barnett

She was cleared of personally directing a disrespectful or racist remark against any individual or group so didn’t breach the requirement to treat others with respect.

And she was cleared of causing the council to breach its equality duties.

But she did breach the council’s code of conduct by bringing her office or the council into disrepute.

Councillor Lizzie Deane, who chaired the panel, said that it had been a difficult decision. But on balance the panel felt that Councillor Barnett had breached the rules.

Councillor Deane added: “We accept that this was inadvertent. We are also mindful of the work that Councillor Barnett has done and continues to do in her community.

“We also take into account that Councillor Barnett has apologised.”

The panel recommended that Councillor Barnett undertake equality and diversity training.

Councillor Barnett said afterwards: “I’m disappointed with the outcome.

“I reiterate the apology that I’ve already given. It was never my intention to offend anyone.

“As a councillor I have always helped – and will continue to help – anyone in my ward regardless of their colour, race or religion.”

The panel started sitting in public on Friday 29 November but adjourned the meeting after Councillor Barnett fell down stairs at Hove Town Hall.

The meeting was so rowdy that Sussex Police were contacted.

When it restarted today Councillor Lizzie Deane said that it would be held in secret because the panel didn’t want any more trouble.

The other panel members were Councillor Ann Norman, Councillor Christina Summers and Dr Lel Meleyal.

When challenged, the panel said: “The public interest is better served in holding the meeting in private.”

The formal reason for this was because the panel was going to discuss personal information relating to an individual.

Yet Councillor Barnett, the individual in question, had said that she wanted the hearing to take place in public.

One of her fellow Conservative councillors, Mary Mears, said: “As a previous leader of the council I feel very concerned, having been at both hearings, that having started in open session, at the second hearing they went into closed session.

“In my personal view this reflects quite badly on the council for openness and transparency.”

The complainants were council workers Dan Hermitage and Tim Read, council tenant Narinder Madhar and the Brighton and Hove City Council Black and Minority Ethnic Workers Forum through Sandra Cartwright who chairs the forum.

Mr Read said: “I struggle to understand how any person with any amount of sensitivity around racial equality could possibly speak out in this way.

“This is of particular concern to me given that Hangleton and Knoll boasts one of the largest multicultural community groups in the whole of the city.”

Mr Madhar said: “What I would like to see happen is that Ms Barnett is expelled without further delay for her reckless and irresponsible comments.”

Letters defending Councillor Barnett were sent in by the Hangleton Multicultural Group, Raymond Monasingh, Prakesh Patel and from the family who run the Burwash Road Stores. Another letter of support came from a community volunteer.

One of them said: “Is Dawn a racist? I would say an empathetic no. Dawn was asked a question – do you think that golliwogs are racist? Dawn’s answer was no.

“I am sure that many people of Dawn’s generation would have answered the same … as dolls and on the jars they have been part of people’s lives and have never been thought of in the context of racism.”

Another said: “As a mixed race community we all had gollies … and we still have in our possession the family of gollies.”

  1. Mohammed Asaduzzaman Reply

    Respect and recognise everyone,please forgive and Bless every one ,this is Xmas time plz do not hate each other lets we celebrate the Xmas .
    We should not be too proud ourself to undermine each other,
    We should submit our sorrow and sadness and unhappiness to the our Loard
    Allah,
    Very happy new year

  2. Mohammed Asaduzzaman Reply

    Respect and recognise everyone,please forgive and Bless every one ,this is Xmas time plz do not hate each other lets we celebrate the Xmas .
    We should not be too proud ourself to undermine each other,
    We should submit our sorrow and sadness and unhappiness to the our Loard
    Allah,
    Very happy new year

  3. Valerie Paynter Reply

    It is hard to see how the complainants, who have succeeded in blackening a councillor’s name, have served the interests of Brighton & Hove City Council, the interests if race relations or, indeed, the interests of Brighton & Hove City Council’s beleaguered financial situation.

    Cllrs can never give an opinion, it seems, that can be seen as personal – it is somehow ALWAYS tied in with the council in some way – or so this judgment seems to say.

    The officers today allowed the public back in to hear the verdict but were not willing to provide hard copy of Cllr Deane’s spoken report of the judgment (from notes) until next week either and there was questioning in the room as to whether this Council Statement would carry her words verbatim.

    I wonder if the complainants will come to regret this debacle, with the benefit of hindsight. How wise was it? Were other than race-related motives at work? It has all been rather nasty IMHO.

  4. Valerie Paynter Reply

    It is hard to see how the complainants, who have succeeded in blackening a councillor’s name, have served the interests of Brighton & Hove City Council, the interests if race relations or, indeed, the interests of Brighton & Hove City Council’s beleaguered financial situation.

    Cllrs can never give an opinion, it seems, that can be seen as personal – it is somehow ALWAYS tied in with the council in some way – or so this judgment seems to say.

    The officers today allowed the public back in to hear the verdict but were not willing to provide hard copy of Cllr Deane’s spoken report of the judgment (from notes) until next week either and there was questioning in the room as to whether this Council Statement would carry her words verbatim.

    I wonder if the complainants will come to regret this debacle, with the benefit of hindsight. How wise was it? Were other than race-related motives at work? It has all been rather nasty IMHO.

  5. roy pennington Reply

    apart from the justice of the verdict and sentence (await the edited minutes…) the ban on the public and press must not go unchallenged….i reach for my…

  6. roy pennington Reply

    apart from the justice of the verdict and sentence (await the edited minutes…) the ban on the public and press must not go unchallenged….i reach for my…

  7. John Flood-Paddock Reply

    Political Correctness = PC = Pusillanimous Cant

  8. John Flood-Paddock Reply

    Political Correctness = PC = Pusillanimous Cant

  9. Peter Poole Reply

    Surely the complainants should have taken the issue up with the store selling the products through the council’s trading standards dept. Or perhaps they knew they’d have no chance of success?

  10. Peter Poole Reply

    Surely the complainants should have taken the issue up with the store selling the products through the council’s trading standards dept. Or perhaps they knew they’d have no chance of success?

  11. Matt Reply

    Cllr Barnett should resign. Correct outcome to challenged this kind of bigotory.

  12. Matt Reply

    Cllr Barnett should resign. Correct outcome to challenged this kind of bigotory.

  13. Anita Burgess Reply

    May I respectfully suggest that the members of the council are themselves guilty of bringing their council into disrepute.

    Dawn Barnett belongs to my generation and we had golliwogs which were cherished and loved. They are nostalgic and not racist. If you had a black doll you were envied. Queer was a word we used for something being strange. Gay was a word we used for something being bright and cheerful. No doubt the council of Brighton and Hove would like to label me racist and homophobic. Dawn do not apologise and please do not attend a diversity training course. You are quite correct.

    May the blessings of the Christ child be with you all this Christmas

    Anita

  14. Anita Burgess Reply

    May I respectfully suggest that the members of the council are themselves guilty of bringing their council into disrepute.

    Dawn Barnett belongs to my generation and we had golliwogs which were cherished and loved. They are nostalgic and not racist. If you had a black doll you were envied. Queer was a word we used for something being strange. Gay was a word we used for something being bright and cheerful. No doubt the council of Brighton and Hove would like to label me racist and homophobic. Dawn do not apologise and please do not attend a diversity training course. You are quite correct.

    May the blessings of the Christ child be with you all this Christmas

    Anita

  15. Barbra Reply

    Gollywogs are NOSTALGIC as are any other childhood toys, how long before little girls tea sets or little boys toy cars are banned as being sexist and not politically correct,what a load of rubbish.

  16. Barbra Reply

    Gollywogs are NOSTALGIC as are any other childhood toys, how long before little girls tea sets or little boys toy cars are banned as being sexist and not politically correct,what a load of rubbish.

  17. Uncle Ruckus Reply

    This woman was hauled before the Green Councils equivalent of a Star Chamber;

    No matter what your political persuasion, this is despicable conduct by Brighton council

  18. Uncle Ruckus Reply

    This woman was hauled before the Green Councils equivalent of a Star Chamber;

    No matter what your political persuasion, this is despicable conduct by Brighton council

  19. Steve Parker Reply

    What utter total rubbish has gone on here. Two do-gooders of the worst type have used No judgement or contextual thought. And you wonder why most ordinary people have contempt for “them at the council”. Just before you get your high horses out of the stable I am not racist and never have been. I have employed people who have come to this country in my job and they were all excellent, decent people with nice family’s. I never had a golly toy but have fond memories of the jam jar gollywog which ONLY meant to me that Mum had made rice pudding and that I could stir in the raspberry jam. You cant backdate history and cant backdate memories. Grow up and move on.

  20. Steve Parker Reply

    What utter total rubbish has gone on here. Two do-gooders of the worst type have used No judgement or contextual thought. And you wonder why most ordinary people have contempt for “them at the council”. Just before you get your high horses out of the stable I am not racist and never have been. I have employed people who have come to this country in my job and they were all excellent, decent people with nice family’s. I never had a golly toy but have fond memories of the jam jar gollywog which ONLY meant to me that Mum had made rice pudding and that I could stir in the raspberry jam. You cant backdate history and cant backdate memories. Grow up and move on.

  21. Clive Reply

    The fact that a golliwog was a child’s toy doesn’t make it OK – in fact, rather the opposite. ‘Nostalgic’? Only if you are nostalgic about patronising and insulting attitudes towards people of non-white origin, which were once all too common. I had a golly badge from Robinson’s jam when I was a kid, but I’m not going to defend that now. Times – and attitudes – move on, and in this case it’s a good thing too.

    Don’t agree with the ban on public and press to the hearing, but to describe it as a Green ‘star chamber’ can’t be right, since there were no Green councillors on it. In fact I suspect no-one really wanted this kind of hoo-hah apart from Councillor Barnett, who appears to have some kind of martyr complex.

  22. Clive Reply

    The fact that a golliwog was a child’s toy doesn’t make it OK – in fact, rather the opposite. ‘Nostalgic’? Only if you are nostalgic about patronising and insulting attitudes towards people of non-white origin, which were once all too common. I had a golly badge from Robinson’s jam when I was a kid, but I’m not going to defend that now. Times – and attitudes – move on, and in this case it’s a good thing too.

    Don’t agree with the ban on public and press to the hearing, but to describe it as a Green ‘star chamber’ can’t be right, since there were no Green councillors on it. In fact I suspect no-one really wanted this kind of hoo-hah apart from Councillor Barnett, who appears to have some kind of martyr complex.

  23. Anita Burgess Reply

    Golliwogs were loved and being nostalgic about that era does not mean we were patronising or had insulting attitudes towards people with a different skin tone to us. (May I use the word black for that is what a golliwog is) Indeed it taught us to respect our overseas brethren. At the age of 18 years I had a boy friend from Nigeria. Please Clive do not assume all people who loved their golliwogs are/were patronising and have/had insulting attitudes.

    Do you know Councillor Barnett? I don’t. Why do you assume that she appears to have some kind of martyr complex? Patronising? Insulting attitude?

    Happy new year

  24. Anita Burgess Reply

    Golliwogs were loved and being nostalgic about that era does not mean we were patronising or had insulting attitudes towards people with a different skin tone to us. (May I use the word black for that is what a golliwog is) Indeed it taught us to respect our overseas brethren. At the age of 18 years I had a boy friend from Nigeria. Please Clive do not assume all people who loved their golliwogs are/were patronising and have/had insulting attitudes.

    Do you know Councillor Barnett? I don’t. Why do you assume that she appears to have some kind of martyr complex? Patronising? Insulting attitude?

    Happy new year

  25. Clive Reply

    Anita – no, I am accusing everyone who had a golliwog of holding any particular views (see what I say about once having a badge myself) . I am, however, saying that patronising and insulting views towards black people were once very common and that gollies emblemise this.

    On other threads I have seen people ask why they are any different to a white doll. Difficult to know where to start with that one, but let’s try several hundred years of slavery and the white man believing that he (sic) was top dog. Given the weight of that history, it’s not a bad idea to tread carefully in this area. I don’t believe that Dawn Barnett did that, and I also believe that she must have known that this would cause a fuss, and would offend some people, and that she would end up ‘in the dock’ over it.

    There is nothing patronising or insulting about commenting on the conduct of an elected politician, and the fact that I don’t know her personally has got nothing to do with it, really. HYN yourself.

  26. Clive Reply

    Anita – no, I am accusing everyone who had a golliwog of holding any particular views (see what I say about once having a badge myself) . I am, however, saying that patronising and insulting views towards black people were once very common and that gollies emblemise this.

    On other threads I have seen people ask why they are any different to a white doll. Difficult to know where to start with that one, but let’s try several hundred years of slavery and the white man believing that he (sic) was top dog. Given the weight of that history, it’s not a bad idea to tread carefully in this area. I don’t believe that Dawn Barnett did that, and I also believe that she must have known that this would cause a fuss, and would offend some people, and that she would end up ‘in the dock’ over it.

    There is nothing patronising or insulting about commenting on the conduct of an elected politician, and the fact that I don’t know her personally has got nothing to do with it, really. HYN yourself.

  27. Clive Reply

    first line above ‘I am *not* accusing everyone…’ … could do with an edit button here!

  28. Clive Reply

    first line above ‘I am *not* accusing everyone…’ … could do with an edit button here!

  29. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Clive, the panel was CHAIRED BY A GREEN COUCILLOR!!!!!

    Can I assume you would not be caught dead supporting the flag of St. George, the English flag, because the BNP and NF used it and made it emblematic of their values? Even criticize England football team supporters for using it?

    Your logic is faulty and you WANT to demonise golliwogs, regardless. And that is almost a definition of prejudice to my mind.

  30. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Clive, the panel was CHAIRED BY A GREEN COUCILLOR!!!!!

    Can I assume you would not be caught dead supporting the flag of St. George, the English flag, because the BNP and NF used it and made it emblematic of their values? Even criticize England football team supporters for using it?

    Your logic is faulty and you WANT to demonise golliwogs, regardless. And that is almost a definition of prejudice to my mind.

  31. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Clive you really are so out of order. Cllr Barnett had NO SAY in the “hoo ha” going ahead. None at all. There was an attempt by some officers to settle the matter without resort to a panel. It was the complainants who forced the issue. Read the now-suppressed agenda paper for the first, aborted meeting (when Cllr Barnett fell). It will straighten you out.

    You can get it from Brighton & Hove Independent via a link given in the current edition, still on the streets until replaced tomorrow. But also available online.

  32. Clive Reply

    Val – you are right about the Panel being chaired by Green councillor.She was, however, one of three.

    I don’t accept that your comparison of the St George flag. That was something that has been appropriated, on occasion, by racists. Whereas the golliwog IS pretty racist in its essence and concept, in my view. If you don’t accept that, you must at least accept that it is widely perceived as such.

    Cllr Barnett could have prevented the whole ‘hoo hah’ from going ahead by not making the comment in the first place, and I find it hard to accept that she would not have known that it was pretty certain to provoke a reaction. Your pinning this on the complainants is redolent of blaming the victim. And I don’t know them personally either.

  33. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Have a look at the saveHOVE article about the origins of golliwogs. Take the time to actually read Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwog from 1895. It was invented by the illustrator and the book was so popular they did another 14 of them. Look at the golliwog and peg doll postcard depicting them around 1905/10 as a couple with golly and peg doll children. The entire original book has been uploaded to the internet and is freely readable. Click on the link in the saveHOVE article to get to it.

    Should Hindu people abandon the svastika because Hitler thought it was a cool emblem to hijack for his Nazis? NO! But by your logic, if racists or whackos make use of something perfectly innocent, then it should be dumped.

    In India and parts of Africa, raped women are cnsidered spoilt and lose value and status socially and in their families. Do you agree with that?

    The golliwog was not racist in concept. And the cartoon/caricature it is has no racist meaning. Look at The Simpsons! Look at any number of exaggerations in the design and illustration worlds! Stop colluding with people hugging close excuses to cry racism. It does not help anyone to move forward.

    And to suggest that it is racist for black people to be represented in doll form is just plain sad.

  34. John Flood-Paddock Reply

    So Cllr Barnett has accepted diversity training by way of punishment. Anyone remember China’s Cultural Revolution ?

  35. Clive Reply

    Oh dear. How on earth can anyone compare diversity training with Maoist murdering? Or this process with Guantanamo bay, or a star chamber? Proportion, please. A councillor has been rapped on the knuckles, that’s all. And if, as she says, she was unaware that her remarks would cause offence then diversity training is no bad idea.

    Val: the Hindu swastika was *their* emblem. The golliwog is a white caricature of a black person. Completely different. And no, I do not condone the view that raped women are ‘spoilt’? What a suggestion to make!

    In terms of me ‘colluding with people hugging close excuses to cry racism’ firstly, I’m not colluding with anyone, and secondly, how do you know that this is what motivated the complaints? You can’t, and having read the original report and the formulaic apology offered, I can quite understand why the complainants wanted to take this further.

    Nor did I suggest that ‘it s racist for black people to be represented in doll form’. We are talking about a particular caricature, as discussed in the article by David Pilgrim that you link to on your website. He concludes:

    “The Golliwog was created during a racist era. He was drawn as a caricature of a minstrel — which itself represented a demeaning image of blacks. There is racial stereotyping of black people in Florence Upton’s books, including The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls — such as the black minstrel playing a banjo on page 45. It appears that the Golliwog was another expression of Upton’s racial insensitivity. Certainly later Golliwogs often reflected negative beliefs about blacks — thieves, miscreants, incompetents. There is little doubt that the words associated with Golliwog — Golly, Golli, Wog, and Golliwog, itself — are often used as racial slurs. Finally, the resurgence of interest in the Golliwog is not found primarily among children, but instead is found among adults, some nostalgic, others with financial interests.”

    I think that covers the issue pretty well, and might suggest that the golliwog is best left in the past.

  36. John Flood-Paddock Reply

    Hey, Clive; did I compare them ?
    The cultural revolution was called re-education.
    Not all the students were killed.
    BTW How do you know Valerie is OK with calling her Val ?
    Hope you’re up for apologising if she does not like it, Clivey Baby.
    Maybe not just the golliwog best left in the past, but all this nonsense too.
    Now, about the fire-bombing of Dresden …

  37. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Clive, I would hope that the entire saveHOVE essay would be food for thought; and critical thinking at that. David Pilgrim’s piece is written as a bespoke piece of prejudice for a particular purpose and website to ‘fit’ the remit, IMHO.

    He reads like a conspiracy theorist off the leash. You can argue something into almost any shape you want, but it does not constitute absolute truth and I repeat: what about The Simpsons? What about every caricture, doll or representation ever made? And if you were to TROUBLE to read Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwog you would see how innocent and non-racist or prejudiced the golliwog is in it. Indeed, his hair is tamer than a Jimi Hendrix Afro (which was much imitated by fashionable men and women of all races back in the 1960/70 period).

    Should Dutch people have felt affronted by the dolls being called ‘Dutch’ as some kind of piss-take of how Dutch people look? Get real.

  38. Anita Burgess Reply

    Fire bombing of Dresden, a beautiful city. May I recommend 2 books: The diaries of Victor Klemperer. 1. “I will remember” and 2 “To the Bitter End”

    These diaries were serialised on German TV several years ago.
    . Once started they are difficult to put down.

  39. John Flood-Paddock Reply

    I shouldn’t be doing this but …
    What about Al Jolson in blackface in The Jazz Singer ?
    Can we watch that ?
    What about Porgy & Bess and the song entitled ‘Dere’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ for New York’ ?
    Condescending or what ?
    And written by a jew.
    This thread is not about racism.
    Or golliwogs.
    It’s about the council lacking any common sense.
    And a cynical newspaper (not this one) trying to revive its flagging circulation by sensationalising a chance remark.

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