What’s Loving Got to Do With It?

What's Loving Got to Do With It? | Stephanie DrenkaHappy 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.
What's Loving Got to Do With It? | Stephanie DrenkaThe 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

50 years later, I think about how far we still have to go to fulfill the true 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.

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.” (Mildred Loving)

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

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