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Stephanie Drenka


What’s Loving Got to Do With It?

What’s Loving Got to Do With It?

Happy Loving Day! Loving Day gets its name from the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (1967) which declared all laws against interracial marriage to be unconstitutional in the U.S. It was founded by Ken Tanabe, a graphic designer whose father is Japanese and mother is Belgian, in 2004 as his graduate thesis project at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.

The mission of Loving Day, which is celebrated on June 12th every year, is to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multiethnic community.

Loving Day Celebrations take many forms, such as a film festival, a backyard barbecue, a picnic in the park, or a gathering at a restaurant or bar. I first learned about Loving Day and Loving v. Virginia in my sophomore year of college. Touched by the story, I helped my Asian American student group organize a Loving Day Luau on campus to raise awareness for the day and cause.

I was shocked to learn that interracial marriage had been illegal so recently. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in Caroline County, Virginia, however due to Virginia’s “miscegenation” laws banning interracial marriage, they ended up going to Washington, D.C. to get married. After returning to their home state in 1958, they were woken in the middle of the night, charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed. According to the judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents…. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Judge Bazile sentenced the Lovings to a year in prison, to be suspended if the couple agreed to leave the state for the next 25 years.

The Lovings left Virginia and lived with relatives in Washington, D.C. but were arrested five years later when they returned to visit family. Inspired by the civil rights movement, Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. The couple was referred to the ACLU, which represented them in the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia (1967) where the court ruled that state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State. (Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion for the unanimous court in Loving v. Virginia)

There is a great documentary that originally aired on HBO about The Lovings:

Click here to watch the full documentary on Amazon.

What does this mean to me?

The 1924 Racial Integrity Act in Virginia which banned the Lovings’ marriage was part of a series of laws designed to prevent racial intermixing in which “white” persons were defined as those with “no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian” or “one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian.”

If these types of laws were still in place today, there would be a chance that I could get arrested for being married to my husband in this country.

Photo by Elisabeth Carol
Photo by Elisabeth Carol

The idea of not being legally allowed to marry the person I love seems so foreign to me. And yet it’s something that many Americans still face today. One of the primary reasons I organized that luau back in 2005 was because I wanted to show support for our LGBTQ students at DePaul. As crazy as it sounds now to know that less than 50 years ago, laws against interracial marriage existed– what is even more mindboggling is that we haven’t learned anything in those 40 years, and laws against gay marriage are still in place.

When I think about the Lovings and the struggle they went through, I am sickened and embarrassed by our country’s failure to recognize the basic civil right to marry who you love. I pray that someday our current discriminatory laws are as shocking to the next generations as learning about Loving v. Virginia was for me.

In the aftermath of McKinney, only a day after a teacher was fired for her Facebook commentary in support of racial segregation, I shudder to think about how far we still have to go to fulfill the mission of Loving Day. However, the very existence of Loving Day gives me hope, and reminds me how much gratitude I owe The Lovings for their courage.

Help Spread the Love by visiting LovingDay.org and find out how you can support this amazing movement!

5 comments

  • Kaylah Burton

    June 12, 2015

    Beautiful Post Stephanie! Have you read the book Loving Day by Mat Johnson?

    • Stephanie Drenka

      June 12, 2015

      I haven’t!! Ordering it for my kindle right now!!

  • Sevi

    June 12, 2015

    I love you and Holden! The world wouldn’t be the same if you guys couldn’t be married to each other. I’m just glad we are free to marry and love as we please. Still a lot of work to go.

  • Addie

    June 14, 2015

    Stephanie, you’re so on point with those last 3 paragraphs. My hope is that knowledge about this holiday will influence laws that impede civil rights to be changed. Even though it is no longer a “black and white” issue, its an issue because the majority don’t see its as their normal, and that has to change.

    • Stephanie Drenka

      June 17, 2015

      so much truth, addie!! people really need to work on treating others how they expect to be treated. golden rule should be law!

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