Friday, June 12, 2015

Today is 'Loving Day,' a celebration of the fall of anti-miscegenation laws

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 2:14 PM

click to enlarge TRAILBLAZERS: Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who fought their state's racist laws for the right to marry. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • TRAILBLAZERS: Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who fought their state's racist laws for the right to marry.

'Loving Day'
is today, June 12 — the anniversary of the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down laws in 16 states against interracial marriage. Arkansas was one of those states.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas has a good entry on the topic:

The post–World War II era found Arkansas laboring to reassert its commitment to maintaining Jim Crow laws—those designed to keep African Americans in subjugation. In 1947, concerned about the growing militancy of African Americans and their demands for civil equality, state legislators enacted a slate of provisions that further segregated black and white people. Included was a revised anti-miscegenation law that prescribed specific penalties for people convicted of having interracial relationships. The penalty for a first conviction was a fine of $20 to $100. Second convictions subjected individuals to a $100 fine and up to a year in prison. Third and subsequent convictions would result in one to three years in prison.

Anti-miscegenation laws remained part of the state civil code until 1968. However, in the twentieth century before their eradication, the state appeared to have been frustrated in its limited attempts to enforce the laws. In fact, in the three cases that made it to the state Supreme Court on appeal in the twentieth century, the state lost each case on the grounds that it had not satisfactorily proven that a relationship had existed between the accused people. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the rights of states to ban interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia (1967), the legislature quickly moved to bring the state’s laws into compliance with the high court’s ruling.

A few thoughts on Loving Day. First, there are the obvious parallels with the current marriage equality battle raging in the courts of Arkansas and the country writ large. Second, I'd recommend you read this New York Times op-ed called "The Myth of a White Minority," which points out that as the U.S. grows more and more diverse, many children born to white-nonwhite unions are raised “sociologically white” — that is, although multiracial, they are "integrated into white communities and family networks and seen as essentially no different from anyone else."

I'll insert a personal note here. This has special resonance for me, because I'm one of those children; my biological father is Asian and my mother is white, but I was raised by my mother's family in a white community. I'm pretty clearly "sociologically white," but I'm also multiethnic. Some people immediately identify me as white. Others immediately identify me as nonwhite. But, as the NYT op-ed points out, society demands racial/ethnic classification. So am I a minority or not? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, yes:

“Mixed” unions — intermarriages and long-lasting cohabitations — have become far more common. According to a 2012 Pew report, 15 percent of new marriages cross the major lines of race or Hispanic origin. Some 70 percent of these relationships involve a white partner and a minority spouse. The most common minority partners for whites are Latinos, followed by Asians, though the frequency of white-black marriage also continues to rise.

For much of our racist past, all partly white, partly black individuals were socially and legally defined as black. The “one drop” rule was absurd, of course, yet it has effectively returned, with a vengeance, via statistical categories. There is no justification for viewing as not white all children who are partly white and being raised in a family that includes a white parent and two white grandparents, to say nothing of aunts, uncles and cousins.

Not that I particularly care how I'm classified by the Census Bureau, personally. The larger point is that those categories reflect the fact that Americans still often view identity through a binary white/nonwhite schema. And then there's also the fact that not all minorities are created equal in America. My experience growing up as a half-Asian/half-white person was vastly different than those of friends I've had who are half-black/half-white. The NYT again:

In their book “The Diversity Paradox,” the sociologists Jennifer Lee and Frank D. Bean found that individuals with white-Latino and white-Asian backgrounds did not feel excluded by race and enjoyed latitude in choosing their own identities. The story was different for those with one black parent: They experienced racial barriers, showing that visible African ancestry is still the great exception when it comes to the mainstream.

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