I shopped for wedding cards this morning. I’m going a wedding with a friend of mine this Saturday, and she asked me to pick up a card while she was at work. I strolled into the Hallmark store, a place I haven’t been in quite some time, and was instantly lambasted by messages of hope, caring, and otherwise sappy sentiments. All well and good, since that’s what Hallmark makes its money from, but as I kept looking around I saw a label I’d almost forgotten about: Mahogany cards.
I can still remember when I first saw Mahogany cards. Most of them seemed to be decked in kente cloth patterns, as if the Kwanzaa section of the cards had a small, year-round baby. Still, I thought it was nice to see more cards with black people on them. Today I went into the store and saw much of the same, but I was bothered by it instead.
- The formula. Fancy poetry-esque prose + artsy typeface + God reference (close to optional, but frequent) + pictures of black people = Mahogany card.
- Black people, now featured exclusively on Mahogany! I felt like the whole time I looked around the store, the only time I saw any black people on the cards were on cards labeled for Mahogany sales. Just seemed a little…segregated?
- Interracial marriage? Uhm, wait for the “Swirls” label coming next month. One particular card I read was branded Mahogany, though I couldn’t tell until I looked REALLY closely why it was a Mahogany card at all. Everything about the card, including the message inside, looked like a “normal” Hallmark card…when I looked really closely, I saw that the couple on the front of the card was black. That was the only real difference. There’s a label for Spanish/Hispanic cards now; will there be labels for Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Jamaican cards?
Through all this, I couldn’t help but get the overwhelming sense that I was being sorted on card selection based on race. Heaven forbid the couple would be mixed…what card would I pick then? One with white people, one with black people? Maybe I’d just get a card with no people on it and dodge the bullet entirely?
I don’t mean to talk up something that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s not Hallmark’s marketing campaign this post is really about, even though the title would lead you to believe that; Hallmark is just giving us as a society what we want. I just think that as a society we create an interesting paradox when it comes to race. Walk into churches all around the world, and you’ll see the faces of venerable figures like Jesus Christ morph from culture to culture, regardless of the fact that if he lived in Jerusalem, he likely only had a couple options to choose from.
When it comes to the ideas that we take to heart, ideas that shape ourselves, it seems that we usually choose the ones that mirror us best. Even in our greeting cards, we have to make sure we’re getting an accurate reflection of ourselves in the sentiments of happiness, faith, love, or grief, otherwise we’re discontented. Perhaps this narcissism travels through to other mentalities sometimes, ideas of politics or how to help those around us. We think that our idea is best all the time, forgetting that others may have experiences or ideas to contribute that could help the whole. Maybe sometimes we just need a little reminder that there are other people out there with equally valid points of view and ideas to share.
Or perhaps all that is a bit of a reach. Guess that’s why I just stuck with the “normal” card.