Today is the anniversary of Loving vs Virginia – the Supreme Court case that allowed Americans the freedom to marry whomever they choose. It’s Loving Day. Fact of the matter is that: the swirl was so popular at the founding of our nation that it had to be outlawed in order to keep ethnicities to each other hostile and to continue a system that effectively marginalized Indians and oppressed blacks for hundreds of years mostly for economic reasons. That sounds kind of Marxist. But it’s also just the historical truth. I mean, feel free to argue with me if you have an alternative explanation for what actually happened.

I give you the story of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, from whom the following notable Americans are descended according to the Wikipedia:

Pocahontas and Rolfe had one child, Thomas Rolfe, who was born at Varina Farms in 1615 before his parents left for England. Through this son Pocahontas has many living descendants. Many First Families of Virginia trace their roots to Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan, including such notable individuals as Edith Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson; George Wythe Randolph; Admiral Richard Byrd; Virginia Governor Harry Flood Byrd; fashion-designer and socialite Pauline de Rothschild; former First-Lady Nancy Reagan; and astronomer and mathematician Percival Lowell.

And of course there’s the story of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Not a marriage per se. More of a concubine-situation, unfortunately for her and their many children. What happened to their descendents?

Three of Hemings’s children chose to pass as white.[66] Two of them managed to effectively disappear from the historical record; one of these, Harriet, was said by a Monticello overseer to be “nearly as white as anybody, and very beautiful” and married a white man after she left Monticello.[16] In 1961, Pearl M. Graham published research indicating she believed she had discovered and spoken with Harriet’s descendants.[67] However, Fawn Brodie conjectured that these were actually the descendants of Sally’s brother John Hemings.[68] Beverly also married a white woman of good circumstances, according to his brother Madison; Beverly’s exit from history was as complete as Harriet’s; the only post-slavery record of his activities is an enigmatic reference to him in former slave Isaac Jefferson’s memoirs as launching a hot air balloon in Petersburg, Virginia.
[...]
Frederick Madison Roberts (1879-1952) – Sally Hemings’s great-grandson/Madison’s grandson/Ellen’s son – was the first person of known African American ancestry elected to public office on the West Coast: he served in the California State Assembly from 1919 to 1934.

There’s a column in the Washington Post today from a sister married to a white man. Here’s an excerpt:

My husband is white; I am African American. Thankfully, we face none
of the social and legal hurdles that Mildred and Richard Loving had to
endure just to love each other. In fact, it takes the pointed looks of
others to remind us of the difference in our skin tones. White people
stare (and then usually try to pretend that they didn’t), Asian people
stare, Hispanic people stare. But none stare more than my fellow
blacks. To many African Americans, I’m a traitor to the race.

Racism is racism. If it would offend you that a white man or woman wouldn’t marry your sibling or child on the basis of their race, doesn’t the reverse apply? And it’s not like people stopped marrying people from different races. It all just went underground with people forced to “pass” as another race just to be with the person they loved. The “Color of Water” story is all too common. Even in my own family — my grandmother was half-Cherokee and half-white and passed as black in public in order to marry my African-American grandfather. How many black families are “pure”? Not so many and to pretend otherwise is a form of self-hatred and self-denial of who we really are in my opinion. Mildred Loving herself was apparently part Rappahannock Indian. The truth is that interracial/interethnic/interreligious relations are part of the DNA of American society and what makes us a culturally dynamic, energetic nation that remains the envy of the world.

I’ve personally dated men from different backgrounds and consider myself the richer for it. It’s about seeing past the color of someone’s skin into who they are as a person — the content of their character as Rev. King said. This is one of the paths to peace and understanding — it’s harder to hate when someone is a family member. And now we have a presidential candidate in Barack Obama who is half-white and half-black — and because of Loving vs Virginia, it won’t hold him back.

I know this is going to draw many a comment, but before you tell me I’m wrong, please listen to Sister/Elder/Warrior Mildred Loving who died just last month who speaks in her own words of the significance of her and her husband’s battle to be free and what it means for us today. Do me a favor and think it through. Think about Barack Obama and Tiger Woods and Halle Berry. Then comment.

Mildred Loving’s statement on June 12 2007 , the 40th anniversary of
the Supreme Court ruling:

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving*

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in
1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We
were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there.
We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back
home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in
love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You
see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time
people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their
ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married,
we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to
each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment,
called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the
night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for
the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage
certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state
prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge
declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay
and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the
interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such
marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not
intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but
offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25
years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were
not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t
have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP
Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the
country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry
all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the
Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “The freedom to marry has long
been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the
orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have
been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge
said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government
should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long
enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and
prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if
someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a
day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to
marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the
person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind
of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their
race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should
have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing
some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies
people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and
my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the
commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or
white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the
freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all
about.

Related Posts with Thumbnails