How Do You Feel About Hallmark “Mahogany” Greeting Cards?

41 comments
July 12, 2014 ‐ By Toya Sharee
mahogany cards

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“Should I be offended that the sales lady in the Hallmark store showed me the Mahogany cards when I told her I was looking for a birthday card for my Grandmom?” was the question posed by a Facebook friend earlier this week. I remember searching for mother’s day cards and birthday cards growing up with my older sister and no matter how sentimental or accurately reflective the message was of our feelings she would never let me pick out a card with the white man in a fishing boat for Father’s Day or even the cartoon white lady wishing a relative a Happy Birthday. “Those people don’t look like us,” she would whisper to me as we ended up choosing a Dalmatian in a birthday hat or some other non-denominational representative of our emotions.

When we discovered Hallmark delved into diversity with its Mahogany card collection, you would’ve thought we’d breathe a sigh of relief that we could actually give a card that represents our language and culture. The Mahogany line, which is created by writers and editors who all appear to be African-American according to the official site, features cards for every occasion displaying people, symbols and sayings that are all relevant to African-American culture. The line started in 1987 as a 16-card promotion and became a year-round brand in 1991. Maya Angelou, T.D. Jakes and Iyanla Vanzant are all public figures that have collaborated with the line.

All that and I have yet to purchase a Mahogany card. The reason being?  Well, we aren’t all running around referring to one another as “sista” and “mama” and there’s always been something within the Mahogany messages that made me feel even more excluded. For example, one card in particular for expectant mothers on Mothers’ Day reads:

You already have what it takes to be a wonderful mama–all you need now is the baby!

Happy Mama-to-be Day

I don’t think I have ever called my mom “mama” in my life. But I don’t knock people who do. And I think Hallmark honestly has the best of intentions. But I guess when it comes to me shelling out almost $10.00 on a greeting card, I don’t need a whole line specially devoted to me because I am black. I guess what I would like to see are images of us included with the rest of America. By giving my community its own section to choose from (which may I add never offers as many options as the other sections) I feel more segregated than when we weren’t considered at all.

Maybe, I’m just being extra sensitive. More and more my generation is sending a text where before a greeting card the price of an extra value meal would have sufficed. But I came across an interesting article written by mommy blogger Erin Petron about how other races feel about the Mahogany line:

“But I gotta ask: Are Mahogany cards by Hallmark racist? I pose the question after shopping for Father’s Day cards and making two observations:

Hallmark views black people as cheaper than white people.

Hallmark views white people as cheesy and not as genuine as black people.”

After finding herself preferring to purchase the Mahogany brand she says she began to understand some of the feelings of buying a greeting card while black:

“Why do I feel weird choosing a card with two black hands on it? Because my dad will think, ‘Why did she get me a card with black hands when I’m white?’ This leads me to think about how black people (and other minorities) have felt since forever about not being represented on consumer products.”

Petron goes on to say she actually prefers Mahogany cards for being more affordable and straight to the point:

“Back to cards. This year, my dad and grandpa’s Father’s Day cards are from the Mahogany section. Not only were they cheaper, but the messages were WAY less cheesy, and just more genuine. Paragraphs have no place in greeting cards or power points. Keep it short, sweet, and simple. Hallmark did; they just seem to think that the African-American community is the only culture that appreciates this.

After visiting the Hallmark website and seeing African-Americans as the creators of the Mahogany section, I’m glad. But I’m also wondering why my taste in cards is considered “black”?

Why aren’t all cards the same price? Why do we feel weird purchasing a card with another race represented? And why does Hallmark think that white people love snarky white chicks and cuddly creatures?”

Still, in her support, Petron points out yet another stereotype (even if it is positive): There goes the blacks “keeping it real” and straight to the point again, because of course a Mahogany card couldn’t possibly display a Walt Whitman quote or something dare I say, superfluously poetic.

I guess we have bigger race problems in this country than what color the people on our birthday cards are, but for me the Mahogany line is a subtle reminder of the separate but equal mentality that almost always ends up being anything but. No matter what the race, I think everyone needs to see symbols in our culture regularly that represent them. Although we have our own history and traditions, we still belong to something bigger. And maybe Hallmark didn’t get the memo that just because we’re black doesn’t mean we’re all running around in kente cloths lighting Kwanzaa candles. So I guess until that changes, I’ll be sticking to cards with cute puppies and random cartoon characters.

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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  • J

    I love Mahogney cards because they depict beautiful images of beautiful BLACK people. I like being able to give my dad a card for Father’s Day that shows an actual BLACK man on it and I’m not offended because a person would assume that I would want to give a BLACK person a card with a BLACK person on it!! #getalifeplease

  • Simone Nikole Blackshear

    Wow, I love the cards. They are probably the ONLY selection of cards I’ve purchased for family and friends. I don’t see a problem with it. I love it actually. I’m over this overanalyzing. Racism obviously still exists. But because we have “specialty” greeting cards? Lol, I think not. Black people will surely find a way to complain about ANY and EVERYTHING. Let’s be real.

  • kierah

    I pretty much buy these cards exclusively. I appreciate the acknoweldegement that I’d like a card makes a cultural statement. One Mothers’ Day they had a card with a brown silhouette head with a beautiful church hat on it. The hat spanned the entire card. My mom actually framed the card. Our culture is built to be celebrated. I’m not knocking it at all.

  • SuperTrooper1420

    This is stupid. If they were not producing them, then THAT would be an issue. Black folks are never, ever satisfied!

  • MsLadyE

    First, people started complaining because there were no cards for people of color. Now that we have our own cards, people STILL complain. Oh well, you can’t please everybody.

  • Jessica Rose Williams

    Sooooo when we are represented but not in the way you want (mind you, not in a negative way) we complain? I have never EVER seen a Hallmark Card with any Asian or Native American figure on them yet you still have to find the negative in this? Hallmark creates beautiful cards that show our image on them (not to mention an array of Black ornaments during the holidays). No it may not be that big of a selection, but to that I say instead of complaining about something so trivial, be apart of the solution and start your own greeting card line that expresses sentiments that you feel are more “authentic” to African American culture.

  • dagr8

    This article reminds me of what my grandpa always says about black people, ‘holified, sanctified, but aint never satisfied’

    • JaniceHopkins

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  • LoveJoy02

    I love the cards. I get them for all my family #kanyeshrug…

  • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

    *sigh* If Hallmark didnt have any cards geared towards us we would still say they were racist. Da*ned if you and da*ned if you dont

  • vintagebrat

    I couldn’t stomach reading this entire article because in a nutshell, it’s stupid. If you have a problem shelling out $10 for a beautifully written and illustrated Mahogany card catch the 2/$1 rack at Dollar Tree. I love the fact that I can give my kids a birthday card that represents them instead of one with Spider-Man on the front. Or I can give my parents or bestfriend that displays the exact sentiment that I’m trying to express. And I swear I don’t know one black person that doesn’t refer to their mother as “mama”. Stick to your day job ma’am.

    • Guest

      Its funny I dont know one black person that refers to their mother as mama.

      • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

        Maybe its a southern thing because pretty much everyone here says mama. Hell, russians say mama too so I dont see why the author is making it such a biggie

        • hollyw

          Def a cultural thing. I’m from the Midwest and we use Ma/Mama regularly, too.

      • trillest

        Somehow I don’t believe that

      • hollyw

        I do.

  • EP

    I like the Mahogany cards. I buy them all of the time. Dont have a problem with it.

  • Marley80

    Most of the Mahogany cards are alright. However, that is the only section where you will find a “Happy Fathers’ Day” card for a single mother and THAT is a problem.

    • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

      Ive seen them in other sections too but in a way, im sort of glad they did do this because I was able to get my mom one and it made her very happy.

    • hollyw

      Huh? A card for a woman saying Happy Father’s Day, am I reading this correctly..?

      • Marley80

        Indeed you are.

      • SheDevilsRule

        I have bought my momma a happy fathers day card for YEARS. She did it all & I want to let her know I appreciated her.

  • Jenb

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being separate, and having our own thing. One day we will stop being so desperate to be included by whites. As long as I can find a good representation of my family members, I am perfectly happy. As for Walt Whitman… I like him, but what is wrong with promoting/elevating african/black poets and authors in our cards?? Black culture is not the same as White culture, yet some black people like to believe that we are “just like them.” We’re not. I’m glad to have cards that reflect our experience and culture as a people.

    • AbigailTea

      Do not forget that not all blacks have the same culture and not all whites have the same culture.

  • uniquefashionista

    The funny thing about this article is that if we didn’t have Mahogany cards, there would be complaints about that as well. The Mahogany cards that I have come across and purchased are very well written and meaningful. Just like all greeting cards, you have to take your time and read them carefully to find the one that suits you. I’m glad that we do have cards that represent our culture. I love giving my family cards with people that look like us as opposed to giving them one with blonde hair and blue eyes. My mother has kept EVERY single Mahogany card I have ever given her. I understand that the author might feel like these cards “segregate” us from everyone else, but f we don’t create our own, it wouldn’t get done.
    I have also seen a section for the Spanish culture as well. A lot of the cards are written in Spanish only. (not sure if they are offered everywhere, but we have them in Texas)
    I can almost guarantee that they are choosing these that reflect their culture over the ones with “Walt Whitman” poems in it. These are just my personal observations – not suggesting these are facts.
    At the end of the day, I choose cards that I feel best represents the occasion. This may be a 99 cent card, an Expressions card, musical card, or Mahogany card. I’m just glad that the CHOICE is mine!

  • Kylie

    We complain about representation then, when we get it, we still complain. I wish I would get my grandmother a card with a white woman on the front when there are other options. Plus, I call her nana which is a feature I find a lot on the Mahogany cards.

  • ToEachHerOwnBut

    I loved being able to purchase a mothers day card for my Granny that gave the options of which name I wanted to use “Big Mama,Granny, Grandma” etc. I love the line and it’s my first choice when shopping for cards.

  • Tai

    Wow…I have so much more to say but because at the end of the day this in no way affects my day to day living I’ll just say that maybe people of color in general (not just black people) want the things in their lives to be at least a small representation of their culture and who they are. Something as insignificant as a birthday card (even though no one ever keeps them) can convey how you feel perfectly but why should I be subjucated to image that doesn’t properly depict me or a “flesh toned bandage” that clearly doesn’t match my flesh tone. Its really just the little things. So until society wakes up and finally gets the picture that I am not just black…I’ll gladly take a sista lighting Kwanzaa candles in kente cloth as a get well soon card.

  • You Mad?

    Please excuse my slight grammatical error,

  • You Mad?

    Why does this website insist on making inflammatory articles like this if this? This website used to be uplifting now its starting to show its true colors.

    • SheDevilsRule

      I have only been reading this website fo about 6 month’s. It’s seem’s to me they like to instigate & start alot of racial BS. Light skin against dark..Black against white..If this is supposed to be a “black site” Then why does MN have pictures of white people on some of their articules? I don’t think it’s funny to make fun of white folk’s & I don’t think it’s right for us to bash each other. This is more like Shyte Starter .Com

      • hollyw

        Lmbo @ “ShyteStarter. Com, you are dead right!!

  • Really?

    This might possibly be the stupidest thing I have ever read.
    It’s amazing to me what my “sistas” are determined to take a stance against. So
    you wont buy a greeting card because inside it might say “Thanks for keepin it
    real, Happy fathers day!” Or whatever it says? First off, the fact that you
    would even say that, lets me know that you haven’t actually read through the
    greeting cards, or maybe you have but the Mohogany cards at my store don’t say
    anything like that. Part of black culture is in fact our language and the way
    that we communicate which is indeed signature to being black, the fact that it
    offends your sensibilities is just plain weird. The bottom line: A greeting
    card is a sweet gesture for any occasion, so to find negativity in that I
    honestly don’t understand…This to me goes right along with some comments I read
    about natural hair products a few months ago that went like this “Is anyone
    else annoyed that the packaging for Panteen ProV line for black women is brown?
    Why did they have to make it brown” Seriously? Wtf? So there’s not an uproar
    against women laying down with men who have no jobs and having babies by them
    because suddenly they have morals and don’t belive in abortions, and then
    demand child support. There should be an article on that EVERYDAY, but we’re
    mad at Greeting cards?!? And this is EXACTLY why a lot of our intentions don’t get
    taken serious. This could be an awesome website, please stop this

    • Andrea M Neely

      Agree totally! Give us a break…

      • deloresjsherman

        My Uncle
        Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
        with a laptop. visit their website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

        • Annette

          It’s funny how this is an issue for the MN writer but NOT these bogus ads about “working at home on a laptop”, “buying or selling a car or drugs” for that matter. Since you all obviously have nothing else to do, please police these none sense postings!!!!

          • MsLadyE

            Thank you! Those dumb “ads” get on my last nerve. They don’t seem legitimate. And people who visit those “websites” might find out later that they’re illegal, carry viruses, or they’re victims of identity theft.

    • TLC–Tender Loving Care Tip

      I swear!! Just buy a card!! Geesh!!

    • SheDevilsRule

      100 STARS FOR THIS COMMENT!! I read it & came to say something, but you said it better then I EVER could!!

    • May Baby

      *breathes a sigh of relief
      I was thinking the same thing. Why is this an issue? I’m going to make a greeting card that says “don’t sweat the small stuff!”

    • xxdiscoxxheaven

      Not to mention I am sure that “mama to be” card was intended for a mother to be i.e a PREGNANT WOMAN.
      Sigh…we complain about the dumbest stuff