Are Black Girls Made of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice?

by Tami Winfrey Harris

Last week, in need of a birthday card, I perused the offerings at my local drug store. I noted how many cards were illustrated with cherubic, little, white girls–all curls and blue eyes, surrounded by hearts and kittens and flowers. High up in the racks, I spied a sliver of brown skin and reached for it. This is what I found…


…a screw-faced, afroed, cursing black girl. On its own, the item from Carlton Cards is perhaps unremarkable, but in the context of all those other cards idealizing white girls as the embodiment of childhood innocence, sweetness and girlitude, it stinks.

Black women have long carried the burden of the neck-twisting, ball-busting, curse-you in-a-second, Sapphire stereotype. The card above is illustrative of how early our humanity and our femininity get stripped away…of why it’s so easy to demonize black women and girls…of why a missing 19-year-old Natalee Holloway gets wall-to-wall media coverage, but 15-year-old Enaesha Lattice Innis gets next to none.

The card demonstrates whom our society values and who it considered just a joke.

  • Sparkle

    Wow! What drug store was this? I usually go to Rite Aid or CVS which have a great collection of African American themed birthday cards such as Mahogany.

    I agree with the author’s point of the media demonizing Black women from an early age, but I don’t think greeting cards are the issue here, I would just chalk it up to poor selections at that particular store. Both cards look wack, btw.

  • Chica

    If your’re looking for cards with positive images of Black folks, you should check out Target. Maybe it’s just because I live in Memphis which is majority Black, but Target has an awesome selection of cards and at 1 point even had retro Ebony magazine cards (and it wasn’t just for Black History month)!

  • apple

    Nope we’re filled with anger attitude and salt

  • omfg

    this is not about where they are purchased; it is about who makes them.

    i believe this company is a subsidiary of american greetings, a major player in the greeting card business.

    i keep thinking a black person (a man) created this card.

  • LN

    Okay, I’m just going to say the thing that you’re not supposed to say. Yes, little black girls can be “sassy”. I’M a sassy black girl. I have white friends, and I am by far the most outspoken, wisecracking and eye-rolling of the group. I don’t take sh*t.

    I think the problem is thinking that being sassy and being filled with sugar and spice are mutually exclusive. And I think that’s the dichotomy that our culture sets up.

    It’s actually a GOOD THING that little black girls speak their minds. This does’t make them ANY LESS adorable, beautiful or valuable.

    I was raised in Kingston, Jamaica where almost every damn girl is outspoken. Yes, of course, there were a lot of shy quiet girls. But I’d venture to say that, like, 55% of my classmates at my all girl’s preparatory and high school were not to be crossed.

    But I wasn’t raised thinking that this was a bad thing or an “other” thing. I just thought it was a thing. One of the many things that make little girls a delight.

    Based on my own proclivities, I have a feeling that my future child might have a bit of a mouth. But it won’t make her any less sweet and precious in my eyes.

  • Jaslene

    Aww that little black girl is still adorable. That card is very depressing and extremely stupid.

  • Ms. Information

    Thank you…and the stereotype gets worse and worse each year…

  • http://www.whattamisaid.com Tami (Writer)

    Just to clarify, I realize that in a more racially diverse area, I could find more examples of good cards featuring girls of color. However; I think the card in question remains problematic. I cannot see a white girl ever being used in place of the black girl on this card and that is because of the different ways black and white girls and women are viewed.

    Greeting cards aren’t the problem, but they are a symptom. I shouldn’t have to travel to a CVS in a black neighborhood not to be insulted.

  • tisme

    I agree with you Tami in that I don’t think they’d ever have a white girl card like that.
    But where I live they have wonderful cards for black people in white neighborhood as well.
    I guess this is why I’m not as outraged as I normally might be.I actually think some of the cards for black people I see are better than the white ones for many reasons.They seem more witty,more creative,and very warm and more personable than the others.

  • MsQuita

    Now that’s ugly.

  • http://www.whattamisaid.com Tami (Writer)

    @LN, you make a great point. I think there is a racist and sexist side to the way black women are portrayed. First, we need to interrogate why society thinks boldness in girls and women is a negative trait, but positive in boys and men. Then we can pull apart why black women are typically assigned these traits and demonized for them.

  • http://www.pamscoffeeconversation.com P.L. Kemp

    Hopefully, that card was just a leftover from a wider selection. However, you’ve made an excellent point. There’s nothing cute about that image. It is hard to imagine a 10 year old of any other ethnic group pictured with the caption “you’re too damn old”. I do think that the media has made strides in its depiction of African American femininity driven in part by the positive role model of the First Family. Yet and still, the angry black woman stereotype continues to be reinforced throughout culture from the blogosphere to the music industry. We still have a long way to go.

  • Keep it Real

    That’s because, AS A GROUP, black women and the black community (men and women) are in denial and make so many excuses on so many things how else can those outside look at you other than a joke?

    If one mentions, black women (it’s not the majority but too many to ignore and dismiss) I believe it’s a solid 20% being loud, overweight, unnecessarily aggressive or 72%+ baby mammas. What is the response? Denial, and I don’t know any black women like that, all of my friends are thin, friendly and don’t have kids, or young black men prefer big 200+ pound women (that is until they get out the hood) lol …… Mention the drop out rate and they’ll say black women are doing great educationally. However, when you look at the stats only 18 percent of black women have a bachelors degree (the majority of those are c students with human resources, psychology… ie non business & science degrees) Mention that currently 31 percent of African American women by their early forties have never married as compared to only 9 percent of White, 11 percent of Asian, and 12 percent of Latino women in the same age group. And they’ll say something ridiculous like. Black women get married later. What race of women do you know have a better chance of getting married in their forties (probably now with kids) or later than in their 20′s and early 30′s? They come up with a study that showed 75% of black women over 35 were married at least once. A study which includes black women who are now 60 or 70+. As if those women got married after they were in their 40′s. lol When we know in the 1950 and 60′s they were getting married at 19 or early 20′s. Mention all of these black communities without men in the home is the ROOT cause of dysfunction in the black community and schools. They say they don’t need a man to raise kids. Then you mention 94% of blacks are murdered by other blacks and they say those percentages normal with all races even though a black male is 8 times more likely to be murdered than a white man….EIGHT! So yeah, I’m sure this constant state of denial haas something to do with it.

  • Yb

    What does your copy & paste block paragraph, and misused statistics have to do with black GIRLS, CHILDREN having their innocence stripped away from them?

  • chanela

    DAMN!!

  • Keep it Real

    I thought the post was about why black women, as a group, are considered a joke. Nothings wrong with my stats…dear.

  • binks

    Cute girl but that card isn’t a good look. I would much rather see a snarky remark on the card with her smiling…to me that would make my smile and laugh but yeah another day and another subliminal attack on black girls/women images…what else is new

  • Kim

    You forgot to add SOME black folks having a huge issue with internalized racism. You truly need to see a therapist. The very idea that because many black women are obese, little black girls are seen as less sweet. Jesus! You need help.

  • Alexandra

    Yeah, even with the meanie face she’s still a cutie. That caption is horrible.
    If an equivalent for non-Black girls was found, it would still be an issue simply because of how people who are Black and Female are perceived; according to this card, age doesn’t even matter. She fits the demographic for the stereotype.

    What’s the name of company for the card? And who came up with the idea/how?

  • Lady P

    @LN

    “It’s actually a GOOD THING that little black girls speak their minds. This does’t make them ANY LESS adorable, beautiful or valuable”

    This is such a great statement!

  • Keep it Real

    @Kim

    My comment is about being in denial, making excuses which causes others to not take you seriously and look at black women, as a group, and the community as a joke. Denial, you need to look that word up and stop getting offended because someone spoke on black women and obesity. I commented on about 10 things and it’s DENIAL not just obesity.

  • R

    This will not post but here goes:

    @Keepitreal

    Statistics are funny and can be manipulated to say many things…You are probably right with your numbers and Im probably right also regardless of your numbers, which is not too far from the general population:

    In spite of your figures:(which might be right?)
    AS of 2009
    Black women earned
    68% of all associate degrees earned by Blacks
    66% of all bachelors degrees earned by Blacks
    72% of all masters degrees earned by Blacks
    62% of all 1st professional degrees.
    67% of doctoral degrees

    Also, what is the % of oow baby daddy Black men
    What is the % of overweight/obese Black men- I see a lot of them.
    What is the percentage of incarcerated Black men? etc. I just wonder why you are here trying to school BLACk women when maybe you should be schooling Black men…but that wouldnt be any fun, right?

    Of course this is all the fault of Black women, no matter what, right?

  • http://elegantblackwoman.blogspot.com Elegance

    Seriously? Why are none of my comments posting? Nothing I post would ever go against your policies!!!!

  • Anon

    @LN
    Well, were you as protected as the average little white girl? Because I’ve heard that Jamaica is a ROUGH place in some areas, and therefore to be able to navigate that social climate, little girls would have to have a thicker skin.

    @Tami “I think there is a racist and sexist side to the way black women are portrayed.” . With all honesty, you THINK there is a racist and sexist side? THINK? Um rap music put it out on FRONT street. Woooooooooooo. Denial is a STRONG emotion.

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