Today we celebrate Loving Day! Fifty years ago on June 12, 1967, Mildred and Richard Loving were victorious in their Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which invalidated every anti-miscegenation law on the books. “Miscegenation” is a made up word meaning “race-mixing”–from the Latin “miscere” meaning “to mix” and “genus” meaning “kind”. The implication of the term implies that different races are actually different species, which in and of itself is pretty disgusting. The term was coined in 1863 to deter interracial relationships as the abolition of slavery was upon us.
As with many Supreme Court cases during the Civil Rights Movement, the change in Washington didn’t necessarily mean a change for the people. Until 2000, Alabama still had their anti-miscegenation laws on the books, although they were unenforceable. It wasn’t until 1971 that the first interracial couple married in the state of North Carolina, where I married my husband in August of 2015.
Navigating the world as an interracial couple a half-century after these laws have been struck down still isn’t as simple as it should be. When I look into his eyes, I see the human that I love so deeply. It is the world around us that reminds us that our “races” aren’t the same.
This year for my birthday we went downtown to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. Afterwards, we went back to our car to chat and wait out our fullness to subside to make some room for dessert. We were parked in a public lot in “progressive” downtown Asheville. After sitting there for less than 15 minutes, a security guard approached our car and asked if everything was alright. We both said yes.
He then proceeded to tell us that we had to leave immediately because we were trespassing.
“Trespassing?” my husband asked. “But we paid to park here.”
The security guard then informed us that if we didn’t leave the premises, he would call the police and have us arrested for trespassing. Our reaction to this was not our best. We had a few choice words for the guard. I began to cry with fury. We decided to leave the lot. On our way out, as we paid the money for the time we were in the lot, I asked the attendant if he had ever seen anyone kicked out for trespassing by sitting in their own car. He told me he had never heard of such a thing.
I already knew before I asked. It just feels better to get some sort of validation. This is happening. This isn’t normal. I never had this experience either alone or with the white men I have dated in the past.
This was one of our more serious incidents, but we experience being treated differently on a weekly basis. From the stares to we get walking into a store to the poor service we receive in restaurants, to the time we nearly gave heart attacks to a room full of elderly white people when we stood up for intermission at the symphony. Even when I’ve tried to explain these experiences to people I love that are close to me, I still feel like some of them don’t believe me.
I’m handling it the only way I know how: by loving my way out of it. More and more, we see other couples who look like us on the street. We know that they had to make laws against interracial marriage because they can’t stop love. I’m so grateful for the the relationship I have. It has been a learning experience. Even though I also am affected by these things, it pales in comparison to what it must feel like for my husband to walk around in his skin every day for his whole life.
As much as we talk of systemic racism today, I get to see individual racism alive and well. It isn’t spoken in words as often as it used to be. I see it in action. When my husband tells me about someone treating me differently, I believe him. I tell him I’m sorry that people are this way. I tell him that we will always have each other. I know those people must not have the kind of love that I do. Our love has no limits.
I have to remember that LOVE IS WINNING. I have to know that the next generation will be even more accepting, as images of relationships like mine are now more and more prevalent in our culture. More and more of my friends are in interracial relationships. Babies are being born every day that don’t fit into any of our current superficial categories of race.
I love Loving Day. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices made by Mildred and Richard Loving. They paved the way to the beautiful lifelong relationship that I’m building today!
Cover Photo Credit to the incredible Matt Wunder