This post was written by Wendy Kennar
My seven-year-old son has learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He’s read about Jesse Owens, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Mae Jemison.
He doesn’t know about Mr. and Mrs. Loving. Loving – the perfect surname for an interracial couple whose court case ultimately made it illegal for any state to prohibit interracial marriages.
Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, fell in love and wanted to marry. However, their marriage was forbidden by their home state of Virginia. They wed in Washington DC, where interracial marriage was legal, and returned to Virginia, only to be arrested and made to choose between jail time and banishment — all because of their decision to marry. Ultimately, in 1967, the United States Supreme Court deemed it illegal for any state to prohibit an interracial marriage.
That was only forty-eight years ago.
My son has never learned about the couple who ultimately made it okay for his mommy and daddy to marry. Truthfully, I didn’t learn about them until a few years ago. I don’t know why the Lovings aren’t taught in school. During African-American History Month, students spend their February days learning about inventors, athletes, leaders, and artists. They learn about brave civil rights leaders. But they don’t learn about a man and a woman who fought the established law simply because they wanted to get married and they happened to have different skin color.
My husband and I married in 1999. At that time, our different races were nothing more than details. It truly didn’t matter to us or our families. My parents were entirely accepting of my husband-to-be and didn’t consider his race to be an issue. After all, they had dealt with their own difficulties prior to marrying. Their different religious backgrounds caused quite a lot of controversy and animosity among their parents.
Preparing for my own wedding, on the verge of a new millennium, I had a difficult time locating a wedding cake topper that featured a mixed-race couple. My mom and I visited shop after shop with no luck. Salespeople couldn’t make any suggestions about where we might locate such a cake topper. And I’ve always been disappointed that I had to settle for the closest thing I could find — a cake topper that featured a white woman with blond hair (I’m brunette) and a dark-skinned groom.
The debate continues about what laws can and can’t control when it comes to marriage. Truthfully, the controversy surrounding gay marriage strikes me as nothing short of ridiculous. In a country with too many homeless, with too many hungry children, with too many schools not having the resources they need to meet the needs of our students, politicians are worried about whether or not two people who promise to love each other have the right to be recognized as a married couple. Surely there are more pressing matters that need our politicians’ attention.
June 12th is recognized as Loving Day. Or, it’s recognized by those who know — which isn’t most of the general population. And that’s the part that confuses me. Why don’t we know about this couple? Why don’t we have a day to celebrate love? Not a day like Valentine’s Day which honestly just leads to added expense and unnecessary stress. I’m talking about a day to give thanks for loving who you love and for feeling hopeful that my son will grow up in a nation where the decision to marry is simply between two adults, and isn’t controversial at all.
To read more from Wendy, visit Wendy’s Weekly Words.