Angela Davis reminded me to post this:
Every so often, between visiting Facebook and sifting through my Gmail, I take a peek at sites like Aol and Yahoo to see what topics are “important” enough to make the home page. This morning (1/18/2012), while glancing at Aol, I came across the phrase, “They Were Arrested For Being In Love.” I found myself reading the story of the first “legally” married interracial couple in 1958. I say “legally” because, although interracial marriage was legal in Washington D.C., where the couple was wed, they were arrested in Virginia and sentenced to one year in prison for violating the state’s Racial Integrity Act. Whether or not the couple served this sentence I cannot be sure, but if you’re interested, here’s the link to the page where I found the article:
During the course of the trial, the judge made the following statement:
“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 marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
This sounds familiar to me for some reason… Why is that… Oh, probably because its the same justification used by many to deny LGBTQ’s from being married (too opinionated?) Well, clearly interracial marriage is still illegal; so the LGBTQ’s are simply screwed and have no basis to plead their case… if you cannot detect the sarcasm in the phrase, allow me to quote a song by Frank Ocean:
“I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman, but between love and love.”
But thinking about my time as a Williams College student, the subject of interracial dating has typically brought out some of the most ignorant comments I’ve ever heard, such as:
“If I see an interracial couple of a white male and a black female, they’re in love. But if it’s a black guy and a white girl, they’re just messing around.”
I didn’t realize that the mix of race and gender dynamics magically made us experts at understanding someone’s relationship. Yes, there do exist stereotypes concerning the sexual capabilities of black men. Yes, there are black men that make use of this stereotype to their benefit. Yes, I do own a cat. Which one of these things is a fact that cannot be denied in any situation at any point in time?
The point is, yes stereotypes exist. Yes, those stereotypes may be grounded in some historical context (yes, I realize I did not provide the background about the dynamics between white men and black women… that a completely different blog post to be written.) However, it becomes problematic when we try to turn stereotypes into facts. The relationship between two people is not something any of us have the right to question without having all of the facts. Whether they are just engaging in casual sex, or they are helplessly lovesick, what matters most is that they understand what they’re doing.
So, with all that said, to Richard Perry and Mildred Loving, both who have both passed on, I commend you both on your commitment to your love. You were not blind to color and controversy, but you decided that some things are just more important.