Yesterday Always a Blogsmaid mentioned an Oprah show about the Lovings, a Virginia couple who challenged this country’s anti-miscegenation laws (laws against people of different races marrying) in the 1960s. The Lovings married in Washington, DC but were arrested on their return to Virginia, where “race mixing” was still illegal. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1967 the Court overturned all states’ remaining anti-miscegenation laws as inconsistent with the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
(photo from Amazon)
Coincidentally, this issue has been on my mind recently — ever since I watched the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, about a white woman and black man who seek their parents’ permission to be married. At one point in the movie, Sydney Poitier’s father tells him “In 16 or 17 states you’ll be breaking the law. You’ll be criminals.” By the time the movie came out, the Supreme Court’s Loving decision had come down and the statement was no longer true. But still, it made me wonder.
You see, Mr. T and I happen to be of different races. My grandmother/great-grandparents came here from Germany and Scandanavia, while his parents are from Taiwan. And when I looked into anti-miscegenation laws after watching the movie, I discovered that our planned Virginia nuptials would have been illegal up until 1967. (To put that date into perspective, it’s the year my parents got married!) And the law wasn’t an ancient remnant of slavery, as I originally assumed — though the first Virginia anti-miscegenation laws did date back to 1661, they were specifically amended in 1924 to include “all non-whites” such as Asians and American Indians.
Mr. T and I are incredibly alike. We’re one of those annoying couples whose brains work so similarly that we often say the exact same thing at the exact same time. But because our forebears came from different places in the world, just one generation ago our marriage could have landed us in jail.
I don’t even know what to say to that, except “Whoa.” Just, whoa.