Blackface, ‘darkies’ and chain gangs: 23 racist, ‘funny’ Valentine’s Day cards people still buy

image via ebay
image via ebay

Valentine’s Day is known for its commercialism and sexism, but it also deserves credit for its racist advertising.  The racism shown in the greeting cards  is overt and unapologetic. What makes them that more disturbing is the way they make use of children, humor, and puns in particular, sanitizing the gravity of not only stereotypes but literally by presenting it in a cutesy and playful way. While the racism in these images is more overt, many of today’s cartoon’s, comics, and greeting cards express stereotypes though (alleged) comedy. Far from satire, which has the ability to challenge and discredit prejudices and stereotypes, they perpetuate them through contrived and obvious so-called jokes. People will often defend these representations by saying, “it’s just a joke, don’t be so sensitive, don’t be so P.C.” Could the same be said about these cards? And if not, what does that say about the caricatures of today and those who defend them? Many of these cards are for sale on Ebay or Amazon. Hopefully, the people buying them are doing so because they are studying or writing about them and not because they find them amusing. Dr. Harvey Young certainly falls into the first category. A historian and critic, Dr. Young is Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies in  the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University, where he holds appointments in African American Studies, Performance Studies, and Radio/Television/Film. He is the author of several books, including Embodying Black Experience: Stillness, Critical Memory and the Black Body. In 2012 Dr. Young delivered a lecture at Northwestern on stereotypes and caricatures in Valentine’s Day Cards from the early 20th century and his research on the subject will be included in his forthcoming book explores how people learn about race through objects and media. While these cards may seem like mere relics of the past and archaic artifacts, they are closer to the present than they appear. As Dr. Young told me in an e-mail, “These cards were bestsellers into the early 1930s. A lot of people’s grandparents purchased and exchanged them. This history is more recent and much closer to home than most people suspect or want to acknowledge.” Without further ado, here are 25 racist Valentine’s Day greeting card, mocking Black, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Native American and even Scottish people.

See the cards…


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