Valentine's Day: A Celebration of Love?
Children all over the United States enjoy a party on Valentine's Day where they decorate boxes with white butcher paper and red heart-shaped doilies into which little cards are distributed by the teachers. I remember those parties with a great deal of pleasure even though I shamefully admit to giving the kids I didn't like so much the cards with skunks or Barney Rubble on them.
I am a person who has a passion for all things vintage and so naturally some of the things I love to collect are old paper Valentines, the type that we would give to our classmates at school parties. This interest has led me to look for them on sites such as ebay and etsy and I would like to share some that I have found that are very disturbing.
What is Native Appropriation?
If you are not a Native American, it is easy to look at the following valentines and think they are cute. Adorable round faced children with wide eyes are dressed in traditional Indian garments with a Valentine message of love. Those of us who are native, don’t find them so cute. You may not be familiar with the idea of native appropriation but according to the Native Appropriations blogspot, it is “the use of indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, and images in popular culture, advertising, and everyday life.”
This sounds flattering, but it is not. It is a continuation of the dominant European culture robbing us. Margo Thunderbird, an activist of the Shinnecock Nation who holds a language camp for native children in New York, explains why the white man’s hijacking of a culture for advertising is wrong: “They came for our land, for what grew or could be grown on it, for the resources in it, and for our clean air and pure water. They stole these things from us, and in the taking they also stole our free ways and the best of our leaders, killed in battle or assassinated. And now, after all that, they’ve come for the very last of our possessions; now they want our pride, our history, our spiritual traditions. They want to rewrite and remake these things, to claim them for themselves. The lies and thefts just never end.”
The following cards are NOT a part of my collection because I only collect objects of beauty. They were found during my research for this post.
Children are not born hating other races or ethnic groups. They are taught how to hate and it is so disgusting to think that such evil greeting cards were a part of Valentine's Day celebrations in the past. I am heartened to know that manufacturers no longer mass produce the likes of the despicable cards that I found during my research.
Indians were not the only non-white culture who were hurt and mocked by valentines. Asian people were insulted in the card below.
Some of the most egregious examples reinforced negative stereotypes of black people such as this adorable little girl depicted in the following Valentine:
I almost didn't include the card below because its message is unspeakably hateful and borders on the criminal.
I even found a Valentine card/calendar of a man in a kilt illustrating the negative stereotype of the extreme thrift associated with people from Scotland.
The hatred in some cards was not confined to racism, I also found some that suggested rape and disease!
I like to think that we live in a more enlightened time where people who are racist are considered to have low IQs.
Love to all,