Monday, February 12, 2007

You won't be my Valentine

Valentine's Day is this Wednesday, and here is a story about how interracial couples are never represented on greeting cards. It also talks about what people tend to think about interracial relations in general.


You need Windows Media Player to listen to the story. Or, if you can't listen to it, you can read it instead (I've written it out here):

Valentine's Day is here again. While some people hide under the covers, others get carried away with the love of it all--or--the consumerism of it all. Chocolate candies? Check. Long-stem roses? Check. Romantic greeting card? Well...I want us to appear for a moment to talk about this one item.

Let's just say you're in an interracial relationship and want to give your significant other a card, that actually shows an interracial couple. Some people might think: "why are you bringing this up? Is it even important?" Well, yes it is. And the number of companies that've cropped up in the past 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 ok. That there's 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 interracial 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 showed 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 interracial 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 multiculturalism, 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 wrist, 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 2 hands without getting completely bored with yourself?

Look, interracial couples are growing rapidly in numbers; in the Latino, Asian-American, and Native American communities, the rate of interracial marriages is hovering at nearly 50%. In the African-American community, 3% of Black wives and 6% of Black husbands are married interracially. Yeah, we continue to be obsessed with 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 interracial couples. After all, they exist. And let's stop fetishizing all things interracial to the point that we merely focus on segments of body parts and anonymous skin against skin. Interracial 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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