50 years af­ter Lov­ing, 1 in 6 new cou­ples are racially mixed

South Florida Times - - NATION - By JESSE J. HOL­LAND

WASH­ING­TON (AP) - Fifty years af­ter Mil­dred and Richard Lov­ing's land­mark le­gal chal­lenge shat­tered the laws against in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage in the U.S., some cou­ples of dif­fer­ent races still talk of fac­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, dis­ap­proval and some­times out­right hos­til­ity from their fel­low Amer­i­cans.

Al­though the racist laws against mixed mar­riages are gone, sev­eral in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples said in in­ter­views they still get nasty looks, in­sults and some­times even vi­o­lence when peo­ple find out about their re­la­tion­ships.

“I have not yet coun­seled an in­ter­ra­cial wed­ding where some­one didn't have a prob­lem on the bride's or the groom's side,'' said the Rev. Kim­berly D. Lu­cas of St. Mar­garet's Epis­co­pal Church in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

She of­ten coun­sels en­gaged in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples through the prism of her own 20year mar­riage - Lu­cas is black and her hus­band, Mark Rether­ford, is white.

“I think for a lot of peo­ple it's OK if it's `out there' and it's other peo­ple but when it comes home and it's some­thing that forces them to con­front their own in­ter­nal demons and their own prej­u­dices and as­sump­tions, it's still re­ally hard for peo­ple,'' she said.

In­ter­ra­cial mar­riages be­came le­gal na­tion­wide on June 12, 1967, af­ter the Supreme Court threw out a Vir­ginia law that sent po­lice into the Lov­ings' bed­room to ar­rest them just for be­ing who they were: a mar­ried black woman and white man.

The Lov­ings were locked up and given a year in a Vir­ginia prison, with the sen­tence sus­pended on the con­di­tion that they leave Vir­ginia. Their sen­tence is memo­ri­al­ized on a marker to go up on Mon­day in Richmond, Vir­ginia, in their honor.

The Supreme Court's unanimous de­ci­sion struck down the Vir­ginia law and sim­i­lar statutes in roughly one-third of the states. Some of those laws went be­yond black and white, pro­hibit­ing mar­riages be­tween whites and Na­tive Amer­i­cans, Filipinos, Indians, Asians and in some states "all non-whites.''

The Lov­ings, a work­ing-class cou­ple from a deeply ru­ral com­mu­nity, weren't try­ing to change the world and were me­dia-shy, said one of their lawyers, Philip Hirschkop, now 81 and liv­ing in Lor­ton, Vir­ginia. They sim­ply wanted to be mar­ried and raise their chil­dren in Vir­ginia.

But when po­lice raided their Cen­tral Point home in 1958 and found a preg­nant Mil­dred in bed with her hus­band and a Dis­trict of Columbia mar­riage cer­tifi­cate on the wall, they ar­rested them, lead­ing the Lov­ings to plead guilty to co­hab­i­tat­ing as man and wife in Vir­ginia.

“Nei­ther of them wanted to be in­volved in the law­suit, or lit­i­ga­tion or tak­ing on a cause. They wanted to raise their chil­dren near their fam­ily where they were raised them­selves,'' Hirschkop said.

But they knew what was at stake in their case.

“It's the prin­ci­ple. It's the law. I don't think it's right,'' Mil­dred Lov­ing said in archival video footage shown in an HBO doc­u­men­tary. "And if, if we do win, we will be help­ing a lot of peo­ple.''

Richard Lov­ing died in 1975, Mil­dred Lov­ing in 2008.

Since the Lov­ing de­ci­sion, Amer­i­cans have in­creas­ingly dated and mar­ried across racial and eth­nic lines. Cur­rently, 11 mil­lion peo­ple - or 1 out of 10 mar­ried peo­ple - in the United States have a spouse of a dif­fer­ent race or eth­nic­ity, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter anal­y­sis of U.S. Cen­sus Bureau data.

In 2015, 17 per­cent of new­ly­weds - or at least 1 in 6 of newly mar­ried peo­ple - were in­ter­mar­ried, which means they had a spouse of a dif­fer­ent race or eth­nic­ity. When the Supreme Court de­cided the Lov­ings' case, only 3 per­cent of new­ly­weds were in­ter­mar­ried.

But in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples can still face hos­til­ity from strangers and some­times vi­o­lence.

In the 1980s, Michele Far­rell, who is white, was dat­ing an African Amer­i­can man and they de­cided to look around Port Huron, Michi­gan, for an apart­ment to­gether. "I had the woman who was show­ing the apart­ment tell us, `I don't rent to col­oreds. I def­i­nitely don't rent to mixed cou­ples,''' Far­rell said.

In March, a white man fa­tally stabbed a 66-year-old black man in New York City, telling the Daily News that he'd in­tended it as "a prac­tice run'' in a mis­sion to de­ter in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships. In Au­gust 2016 in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, Daniel Rowe, who is white, walked up to an in­ter­ra­cial cou­ple with­out speak­ing, stabbed the 47-year-old black man in the ab­domen and knifed his 35-year-old white girl­friend. Rowe's vic­tims sur­vived and he was ar­rested.

And even af­ter the Lov­ing de­ci­sion, some states tried their best to keep in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples from mar­ry­ing.

In 1974, Joseph and Martha Ros­sig­nol got mar­ried at night in Natchez, Mis­sis­sippi, on a Mis­sis­sippi River bluff af­ter lo­cal of­fi­cials tried to stop them. But they found a will­ing priest and went ahead any­way.

“We were re­jected ev­ery­place we went, be­cause no one wanted to sell us a mar­riage li­cense,'' said Martha Ros­sig­nol, who has writ­ten a book about her ex­pe­ri­ences then and since as part of a bira­cial cou­ple. She's black, he's white.

“We just ran into a lot of racism, a lot of is­sues, a lot of prob­lems. You'd go into a restau­rant, peo­ple wouldn't want to serve you. When you're walk­ing down the street to­gether, it was like you've got a con­ta­gious dis­ease.''

But their love sur­vived, Ros­sig­nol said, and they re­turned to Natchez to re­new their vows 40 years later.

In­ter­ra­cial cou­ples can now be seen in books, tele­vi­sion shows, movies and com- mer­cials. For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is the prod­uct of a mixed mar­riage, with a white Amer­i­can mother and an African father. Pub­lic ac­cep­tance is grow­ing, said Kara and Wil­liam Bundy, who have been mar­ried since 1994 and live in Bethesda, Mary­land.

“To Amer­ica's credit, from the time that we first got mar­ried to now, I've seen much less head-turns when we walk by, even in ru­ral set­tings,'' said Wil­liam, who is black. "We do go out for hikes ev­ery once in a while, and we don't see that as much any longer. It re­ally is de­pen­dent on where you are in the coun­try and also the lo­cale.''

Even in the South, in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples are com­mon enough that of­ten­times no one no­tices them, even in a state like Vir­ginia, Hirschkop said.

“I was sit­ting in a restau­rant and there was a mixed cou­ple sit­ting at the next table and they were kiss­ing and they were hold­ing hands,'' he said. “They'd have got­ten hung for some­thing like 50 years ago and no one cared - just two peo­ple could pur­sue their lives. That's the best part of it, those quiet mo­ments.”

STOCK PHOTO

In­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships still face hard­ships.

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