How do I begin this one? It’s a tricky subject, one that isn’t as controversial as it used to be, but still pretty darn divisive. There are companies that are being boycotted for featuring families like this, for offending the sensibilities of people who think it is a violation of human decency.
Interracial families. Specifically, Black/White combinations. More specifically, Black man/White woman combinations. White/Asian is almost acceptable†, because Asians are ‘practically white’ to some of the more bigoted folk, and everyone wants to have a bit of Native American in them. Even White/Latino – as long as the Latino isn’t too dark – won’t raise many eyebrows. Both have been featured in commercials for quite some time. As long as it’s the man who’s white, anyway. But everyone knows that black folk aren’t as good as white folk, otherwise why would they have allowed themselves to be slaves for so long‡, so of course marrying one, and, God-forbid, reproducing with one, is beyond abominable, for White, Asian, Latino, and historically, Native peoples. Complicating matters, there are plenty of black folks who have a problem with marrying outside of the race as well. The anti-miscegenation laws* were aimed at preventing black men in particular from marrying white women, a pure flower to be protected at all costs. That attitude is still there.
Now, it’s still February, and there’s already a theme in place, and this does relate, I promise. This post, however, is proving far more difficult to write than I expected. Not because of the subject matter per se; more because I’m trying to avoid putting too much of my own feelings into this. Not to appear objective, I’ve already made it perfectly clear where I stand on this, but to allow my commentary to remain coherent, accessible.
Shall we press on?
In 1967, the US Supreme Court made a decision on the case Loving vs. Virginia, about a white man and black woman who were legally married in half of the US states, and not legally in the other half (sound familiar?). Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving of Virginia fell in love, and did what young people in love often do, in spite of the boards and swords and corsets and belts between them, and what happened is what happens sometimes. Since 1924^, miscegenation – the mixing of two different racial groups through a romantic relationship of some sort – was illegal in their home state, so they went to Washington DC to marry. After they returned to Virginia, their home was raided while they slept, and, since miscegenation was a felony, they were arrested. After citing a biblical passage justifying his position, the judge sentenced them to a 1-year-term in jail, suspended if they left the state. They did.
Before June 12, 1967, they couldn’t travel together in Virginia; visiting family was difficult, and they were essentially isolated in DC where, while their marriage was legal, the attitude wasn’t overwhelmingly welcoming. After a letter to the US AG, Robert Kennedy, and a follow up to the ACLU, they were on their way to making history.
While they’re the most famous, they’re hardly the only history-changing interracial marriage. It’s one that means a lot to me, though, since I was born just a few years after that became the law of the land.
Alright, so how does this relate to Black History Month? An interracial relationship is certainly not a celebration of black history, but of diluting the races, so that neither is pure. Everyone knows that black men are all about getting white women, and leaving black women behind. That black women are only interested in being with white men, and having nothing more to do with other black people.
Really? I know there are people who think that – they’ve felt no qualms about telling me so, and they come from either side. Some of those same people have often confronted me, telling me I’m a high-yellow wannabe because of the color of my skin, and the way I speak (again, both black and white), that I think I’m better than they are. What that tells me is somewhere along the way, someone told them that because they have more melanin than someone else, they are inferior. That with that inferiority comes insecurity, and lashing out at those who they think have it easier, instead of working to prove those who have told them this lie were wrong. This is a specific type of person that can be found within every race; growing up where I did, my greatest exposure was to the black ones. Even in college, with it’s 2.3% black population, and a majority of students – of all races – from upper-middle-class to wealthy families. Twenty-odd years on, and it still stings that I was told my sophomore year I was no longer welcome to sit with the group of black students I’d known because “they didn’t think I was black enough.” No, stings would indicate I was hurt by that. And for a moment, I was. But then I was angry. For the rest of my college career, I had very little to do with the black community on campus – with that attitude, they were no better than the white students who thought skin color determined intelligence or value, as far as I’m concerned. Both attitudes are equally harmful. Understanding what it takes to advance, to learn, to grow, that is what is helpful. Listening to someone who thinks differently than you. That is what makes a difference, allows growth, change, and progress.
Does that mean I think black people should subsume themselves into the white majority culture?Absolutely not! It does mean there are more important things to worry about, like making education more important than appearance, being able to present a coherent argument when faced with an ‘educated’ bigot, and being able to walk away when needed, and fight when necessary. There are times to stand by and take it, and there are times to stand up and say ‘no more’. With the right approach, progress is made; with the wrong one, it is set back.
During the height of the Roman Empire, in the Mediterranean, they extended through Europe and Africa, the Middle East, and even western Asia. Because of that, African blood was introduced as far north as England, long before there was such a thing as America and the Slave Triangle. There is no such thing as a ‘pure’ race anymore, not in this country, not unless you’re 1st or 2nd generation, and even then, it’s unlikely. Fight to prove the stereotypes are wrong. Demonstrate that the bigots are wrong. Show that you are NOT inferior simply because of the color of your skin. Striking down anti-miscegenation laws shows that the law – in theory if not yet in practice – considers all races to be equal.
One last note: Before she passed, Mildred Loving was asked about the marriage equality issue, and about how people were using the case of Loving vs. Virginia to justify the striking down of bans against same-sex marriage.
“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… 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.”– Mildred Loving (1939 – 2008)
————————-1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NIV):
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. 11 When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
†I’m well-aware there’s plenty of hate for this combination, too.
‡Yes, I have actually read this statement from someone who was serious
*Not everyone waited for the law to do its thing.
^No, that’s not a typo, it’s not supposed to say 1824, it’s 1924.
#This is not a great term for that group of people. Supremacy evokes a sense of power, and frankly, there’s only one group in this country that has enjoyed that for centuries.