Etsy conducted a sweep of its site today, eliminating many Black memorabilia listings. A reader alerted us to the change that took sellers completely by surprise. The several threads we found on the Etsy boards contained conflicting information from members with no clarification or announcement from Etsy staff about what was allowed and what was not allowed.
A spokesperson provided us with the following statement when we asked what changes Etsy had made to policies that impact Black memorabilia:
"Previously, some of these items were allowed to be sold out of consideration for their potential historical or educational value. However, we have decided we will no longer allow these items in the Etsy marketplace. Regardless of age, demeaning depictions of people are not representative of the kind of values that we want to uphold in Etsy's marketplaces, nor the spirit of welcomeness and inclusiveness we want to foster."
The policy was all the more shocking to sellers because Etsy used to provide an image of a "Golliwog" doll as an example of what was allowed under its "Hate Items: Items that Promote, Support, or Glorify Hatred." Etsy captioned the image of the listing on its policy page, "Example: Vintage Golliwog Doll - Black Americana History."
Language from the previous version of the Etsy Policy:
Examples of What is Allowed:
We tend to allow items that have educational, historical, or artistic value, but we know that even those items are subject to a variety of valid and sometimes conflicting interpretations. Recognizing that there may be no consensus on their educational, historical, or artistic value, the following items are generally allowed on Etsy:
Vintage Black Americana items, such as "golliwog" dolls (but not newly-created items or PDFs of patterns)
One of the EcommerceBytes readers who alerted us to the change in policy and enforcement wrote, "Etsy is giving listing fee refunds, which is unusual. We (vintage team members) cannot fathom why Etsy did not notify sellers first and give them a chance to remove the listings rather than delisting them."