When Rayne Wilson went shopping for an anniversary card, she encountered a problem faced by many people of colour, and rarely spoken about…
My partner and I recently celebrated our seven year anniversary. We’re over the flashy gift stage but I still like to get him a card as a way to say: “Hey, it’s been another year and we didn’t kill each other! Congrats.”
While looking for an anniversary card at a well-known retailer, something occurred to me, and I’m not sure why it hasn’t before. None of the cards (anniversary or otherwise) featured people who even faintly resembled me. And so, on a whim, I went into town determined to find at least one card that represented my relationship. I stopped at numerous shops and was disappointed; none had anything suitable.
Had I been an alien, a unicorn, a fairy or a leprechaun, I would have been in luck. However, I’m none of those things. I am a black woman in an interracial relationship. You may feel an urge to dismiss this as a first world problem. I’d like to encourage you to fight that urge because guess what? I live in the first world and if you have the resources to read this, I’m guessing you do too.
I’m also guessing you’ve never found yourself using a black biro to colour in one half of the couple shown on the card you eventually had to settle for. Is this the biggest injustice anyone has ever experienced? No. Is it acceptable that in 2019, it is impossible to find a person of colour on a card in any high street retailers? Also no.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. England is a majority Caucasian country, after all, and retailers will often cater to the biggest market. However, the most recent UK Census tells us that around 14% of the population – several million people – does not identify as white. And of course, now a member of the royal family is in an interracial relationship.
But statistics and surveys aside, a cursory glance at most UK high streets will show you how culturally rich and diverse the UK really is. The reaction I received after posting my “amended” card to social media was also telling. Several of my friends – either black or in interracial relationships – contacted me both privately and publicly to commiserate that they too are unable to find cards that represent them, or are forced to pay extra for personalised products.
Again, I am aware of how trivial this may seem, especially in light of some of the more sinister recent political developments that have taken place in this country of late (the rise of extreme right wing politics anyone?) but I think it’s important to recognise that human beings are multi-faceted and capable of caring about more than one thing at any given time. I can bemoan the lack of diversity in the card industry AND devote time and energy to some of the bigger issues affecting the BAME community simultaneously. The bottom line is this: ignoring this admittedly smaller but inarguably significant part of the country isn’t just exclusionary and discriminatory. It’s bad business sense.
Like most black women, I’m regularly forced to employ resourcefulness and creativity to modify products that clearly weren’t designed with me in mind (hair products, tights, make up etc) and this situation was no different.
I’m now strongly considering starting a business to address the lack of diversity in the occasion cards industry. After all, my escapades with a black biro taught me that I can, quite literally, fill in the gap in this market, so hopefully something positive will come of this.
My self esteem isn’t affected. I know I matter and I don’t need a card to validate me. But I would like everyone reading this to imagine living in a world where they are consistently ignored and consider what they might to do change that.
One card is clearly not the key to racial harmony and equality but, it is a place to start.
Images: Getty, Rayne Wilson, Unsplash