Today is Loving Day.
Loving Day is an annual celebration held on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in 16 states citing “There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause.”
For interracial couples, multi-racial individuals and all Americans this day is an important point in our history. It was the defining day where our country took a big step in racial reconciliation. The story behind loving day is an tale of hardship, pursuit and ultimately justice.
Loving v. Virginia was an important Supreme Court case, but it was also the story of a real couple. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in Caroline County, Virginia. They fell in love and decided to get married. Unfortunately, getting married was not as simple in 1958 as it was today. Mildred was black and Richard was white. There were laws that forbade people of different races to marry each other
When they went to trial, the judge found them guilty and sentenced them to a jail term of one to three years. However, the judge told the Lovings that he would suspend the sentence if they agreed to leave Virginia for a period of twenty five years. Given the choice between imprisonment and banishment, they chose banishment. The Lovings moved to Washington, DC.
The Lovings were able to live together legally in Washington, but they did not have an easy time. They faced discrimination everywhere. They were not able to rent property in most parts of the city, and they were often the target of racist taunting. Also, they were facing the emotional hardship of separation from their families. Life was both difficult and unpleasant for the Lovings in Washington. They were having difficulty supporting their children. In desperation, Mildred sent a letter to Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States.
Their case went through many levels of the justice system and their appeal was denied every time. Eventually their case appeared before the United States Supreme Court. The Court decided unanimously in their favor.
At the time of the Loving decision, sixteen states from Delaware to Texas had laws banning interracial couples. Loving v. Virginia (1967) made it illegal for these states to enforce those laws. This ended a long era of laws that were enforced in forty-two states over the course of American history. These laws did not only apply to black people and white people; many states also restricted relationships with Asians, Native Americans, Indians, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups.
The impact of this case is incredible. Although interracial couples existed before this ruling, Loving vs. Virginia made it universally legal to marry inter-racially and perhaps more importantly illegal to discriminate against interracial couples. It began to change the paradigm of Americans. Now, multi-ethnic individuals are one of the fastest growing demographic groups.
Loving day is easy for me to celebrate, I am inter-racially married to a beautiful Tawianese-American woman and I and the product of two paternal grandparents who were black/white Bi-racial. But I would hope that those married within their race can also find some joy in this day:
perhaps because you have friends who are interracially married – be celebratory with them
perhaps because you dated someone of a different race – realize your individual benefit
perhaps simply because it is a day the represents racial justice – rejoice in the beauty of reconciliation
Here is a good NPR story from 2007 that examines the supreme court case and the repercussions