Today is Loving Day. In case you’re not familiar, it’s the anniversary of the day in 1967 that the Supreme Court struck down all remaining laws banning interracial marriages.
This morning a friend of mine, who happens to be one half of an interracial couple, posted about Loving Day; a selfie of her and her husband, their big beautiful smiling faces. It warmed my heart and prompted me to reply: ‘Every day is Loving Day!❤️’, happily and joyfully…at first…
One month after Loving Day, on July 12, 1967, the race riots broke out in Newark, NJ. It was a year that saw race riots in more than a few states. So while progress was being made in the courts, tensions were high in the streets.
Two months later, I was born into a city that was still reeling from those riots. I was raised by a large family of elders who ‘didn’t believe in’ mixed marriages. Some of them couldn’t even get used to the idea of ‘mixed neighborhoods’. I’ve spent much of my life trying to notice the subtle ways that their overt racism still lingers inside of me. These things run deep.
Some years ago I was walking through the park with my kids. There was a large group of older boys playing basketball at the court. They were laughing and making noise like it was a fierce competition. I made some comment about how much fun they seemed to be having. Shannon, who was around 6 or 7 at the time, said ‘But they’re not from around here?’ ‘What?’ I asked her. ‘They don’t belong here. They’re not Nutley kids. It’s obvious.’ ‘Why do you say that?’ I asked her. ‘I don’t know. Look at them.’
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant until I realized that most of the kids weren’t white. Was that what she meant? As we got closer, I recognized a few of them from my years of being active in the schools, and I began to name them, one by one. She realized that they were indeed Nutley kids. And I realized that there was some work to be done in my house. Subtle and deep.
More recently, a (white) friend of mine was talking about her daughter’s new boyfriend. She had a look of concern on her face as she glanced from side to side and whispered to me, ‘He’s black. But he comes from a really nice family.’ I was dumbstruck. I made some sarcastic comment like ‘Ohhh. A nice family. Well isn’t that great?’ I couldn’t imagine her ever saying ‘He’s Italian, but he comes from a nice family’ or Irish, or Jewish… maybe Muslim. I guess I could imagine that. She and I have conveniently lost touch.
I realize that there are still a lot of people who believe that a difference in skin tone means a difference in humanity. They still believe in Us and Them. They see others as Other. They don’t ‘believe’ in mixing and melting together. And that is terribly sad.
So yes, every day is Loving Day. Every day is a joyous day for celebration of love, and the overturning of laws 52 years ago. And every day is an opportunity to work to overturn the things that still run deep in us all.
Mildred and Richard Loving