Mixed Couples Get No Love from Greeting Cards
ED GORDON, host:
Whether or not you love it or hate it, celebrate it or avoid it, Valentine's Day is hard to ignore. Despite the commercialism that comes with the day, commentator Jen Chau says if you're in an inter-racial relationship, finding the right words to say, I love you, in the Hallmark aisles may be tough.
JEN CHAU reporting:
Valentine's Day is here again. While some people hide under the covers, others get carried away in the love of it all, or the consumerism of it all, chocolate candies, check; long-stemmed roses, check; romantic greeting card, well I want to stop here for a moment to talk about this one item.
Let's just say that you're in an inter-racial relationship and want to give your significant other a card that actually shows an inter-racial couple. Some people might think, why are you bringing this up? Is it even important? Well, yes it is. And a number of companies that have cropped up over the last several years to cater to this demand confirms it.
People need to see images of themselves reflected in different spaces. This reflection is what tells us that we're okay, that there is nothing wrong with us, and that there are others out there like us. Whether it's in the media or on the colorful cover of a Hallmark card, we need messages that we are not alone. Think about how disheartening it would be to look for inter-racial images in row after row of your local card store, and see tons of furry creatures and cheesy hearts, and perhaps even white couples or black couples, but nothing that shows an intermingling of these or a deviation from these. We have a way to go in this arena.
Let's take my biggest pet peeve when it comes to inter-racial images, specifically. You guessed it, the infamous black hand intertwined with white hand. We saw huge versions of this when Jungle Fever came out, and they just keep getting replicated over and over. They're everywhere. Sometimes the hands are shaking to show partnership.
We believe in diversity and multi-culturalism; let's do business. And sometimes, they're clasped romantically. What the prevalence of this image says to me is that our society continues to be fascinated with white next to black. The stark difference, the unbelievable contrast; I say, get over it.
It's troubling when we're so obsessed with color that we can't even recognize that these hands are actually attached to people. The hands are always cut off at the wrists so that you aren't distracted, and have time to pore over the differences in shade and tone and size, and damn, how long can you actually study two hands without getting completely bored with yourself?
Look, inter-racial couples are growing rapidly in numbers. In the Latino, Asian American and Native American communities the rate of inter-racial marriage is hovering at nearly 50 percent. In the African American community, three percent of black wives and six percent of black husbands are married inter-racially, yet we continue to be obsessed over the contrast of black against white.
There are clear reasons for this, like the legacy of slavery in this country, but we need to get beyond it and come up to the present. Let's show all varieties of inter-racial couples. After all, they exist. And let's stop fetish-izing all things inter-racial to the point that we merely focus on segments of body parts and anonymous skin against skin.
Inter-racial couples are more than just flesh and taboo sex. They involve people and that's something we should remember, even in the greeting card aisle on Valentine's Day.
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GORDON: Jen Chau is co-director of New Demographic, a diversity consulting firm in New York City.
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