Thursday, June 10, 2010

Loving Day 2010

Loving Day is an annual celebration falling on June 12 commemorating Loving versus Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the United States.  Previously, it had been a state decision to allow or refuse interracial marriage.  Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving challenged this prohibition, which banished them from their home state of Virginia, and won.  Chief Justice Earl Warren confirmed the decision to allow interracial marriage with the following words: "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, a person of another race resides within the individual and cannot be infringed on by the state."  Read the whole story here.

Many (though not all) of us are lucky to have always had the freedom to love.  I have never faced imprisonment based on who I love, though that does not mean that individuals do not create their own restrictions.  When I dated somebody of another race in high school, my father did not readily accept my decision and even today, years later, will make hateful comments about the individual.  Many people still face these obstacles in loving; often, the opinion of friends and loved ones has a higher impact than what the law does or does not say.  Many people I have met since that relationship have been astonished that I, a suburban white girl, ever dated a black guy.  This has never made me feel any sense of shame or anything negative like that, but it does interest me.  Dating a black guy never seemed like a big deal to me - he was who I liked at that time and it was as simple as that.  My mother taught me to never judge people by the color of their skin - yet in middle school I once told her I had a crush on a black boy and she told me that it's easiest to just date people of your own race.  Perhaps it is easier, but in the four months that Seth and I were together, the only obstacle to our relationship was my father.  We broke up for reasons completely separate from race but still, many people are astonished that that relationship ever happened.

Loving Day is two days away and happens to coincide with my wedding.  Though my fiance is the same race as me, there is something so special about sharing this date with so many who have been refused the simple right to love in this nation's not-so-distant past.  There will be Loving Day celebrations taking place in New York and elsewhere but if you cannot attend one of these, you can always have your own.  Tell your loved ones that you love them; perform loving acts; go outside of yourself and do something loving for others.  Think of this as another Valentine's Day but without the consumerism and with a real history to be celebrated.  Even if you aren't exercising the specific freedom guaranteed by Loving v. Virginia, just celebrate the fact that you have the right to love at all, a right that many people in the world still lack.  I certainly will be and I encourage you all to join me in loving.

A note: Loving Day is not complete.  Homosexuals in this country and many others still lack the same basic right of loving that heterosexuals enjoy.  It is a fight worth fighting and a problem I hope to see rectified in my lifetime.  Everybody deserves the right to love, independent of the loved one's skin color, religion, race, or gender.  Even while you celebrate, remember those who still cannot love as they should and spread some of your love to them.  We all deserve to love and someday I hope we all will.

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