It will always strike me as odd to think that if were I born a few years earlier, my whole existence would be illegal in many parts the U.S.
Until the summer of 1967, sixteen America states still had laws prohibiting human beings of difference “races” from getting married and having children together. The law was struck down as unconstitutional on June 12 of that year, in the now famous Loving versus Virginia, in which Mildred and Richard Loving fought for the right to fall in love with, marry and reproduce with a person of their choosing.
The Lovings were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C.—where interracial marriage was legal at the time—but were arrested upon returning to their home in Virginia. The police raided their home in the night with the hope of arresting them red-handed (i.e. while having sex). They were initially convicted of miscegenation and banished from their home and their state for a period of twenty-five years.
The trial judge in the case was quoted as saying, “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.”
This I find particularly odd because the best way to judge reproductive fitness is by the health of offspring, rather than political geography. On top of this, genetic diversity has so many advantages. Recently, a massive study of 350,000 people from around the world found that having a more genetically diverse background improved height and cognitive ability, though it appeared to have no effect on other health factors, such as cardio-vascular disease. (Mind you, I certainly bucked the trend when it came to the height bit. Alas.)
For years, the Lovings lived in Washington, while fighting for the right to return home. They finally won their case in the U.S. Supreme Court on this day, 49 years ago (as of 2016).
I wanted to blog about this because, as someone with a British-Turkish father, with a Grenadian-Indian mother, with a spouse who is Japanese, June 12 is an occasion close to my heart. For obvious reasons.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Lovings, I recommend this episode of All Things Considered, which outlines their story, the court case and its implications. Also, look out for Jeff Nichols’ film about them, which hit theatres this fall. I enjoyed his science fiction film, Midnight Special, and I particularly like his casting choices, so Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving ought to be excellent.
Happy Loving Day, everybody!