This week marks the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia. For non-Americans -- and, I don't know, Americans under thirty? -- Loving was the case in which the US Supreme Court decided that individual states could not prohibit interracial marriages. Mildred Loving is still alive, and made a statement:
When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom. When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is? Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “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 marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile. We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.The Supreme Court's decision also makes for interesting reading.
Virginia is now one of 16 States which prohibit and punish marriages on the basis of racial classifications. The present statutory scheme dates from the adoption of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924... The central features of this Act, and current Virginia law, are the absolute prohibition of a "white person" marrying other than another "white person," a prohibition against issuing marriage licenses until the issuing official is satisfied that the applicants' statements as to their race are correct [and] certificates of "racial composition" to be kept by both local and state registrars... In upholding the constitutionality of these provisions in the decision below, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia referred to its 1955 decision in Naim v. Naim as stating the reasons supporting the validity of these laws. In Naim, the state court concluded that the State's legitimate purposes were "to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens," and to prevent "the corruption of blood," "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride"...Preserve integrity; prevent corruption and the obliteration of pride. Who could disagree? And "certificates of racial composition", so people could be sure. Anyway. Before Loving, both Carlos and I would have been illegal in Virginia. Brief googling shows that today about 7% of American marriages are interracial. That's up from less than 1% in 1970 and about 2% as recently as 1990. Roy Loving died in a car accident in 1975. Mildred Loving doesn't give interviews (last week's statement was a rare exception); for the most part, she lives quietly, enjoying her children and grandchildren.