Wednesday, January 22

Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers

One of the things I did this week to celebrate MLK Day was to watch the deeply moving documentary, “The Loving Story,” which profiles Mildred and Richard Loving’s journey for justice here in Virginia.  Arrested a few days after their 1958 wedding for breaking Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage, they were forced into years of exile from families and friends. Mildred wrote to Bobby Kennedy for help in returning home, and he wrote back suggesting she contact the ACLU, which she did. In 1967, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Earl Warren, heard their case when most expected it not to be considered. Changing the nation, the Court unanimously decided that the ban against interracial marriage was illegal.

As a transplant to Virginia from the North, I was stunned by the fact that I was not watching ancient history. The state in which I live today argued in my lifetime that God intended different races to be separate, which is why He put them on different continents. Their argument was that it would go against God’s will to mix races when God had so clearly spoken his intent. In spite of the Supreme Court ruling in the Loving v. Virginia case, other Southern states continued to forbid interracial marriage. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to lift the ban on interracial marriage.

“The Loving Story” is a great film to share with family members and encourage discussion of the history of racial segregation and interracial issues in our country and around the world. Its impact is made greater because it took place within our lifetime and in our own backyard. Richard and Mildred loved one another and just wanted to be able to live together as husband and wife. They weren’t looking for trouble or fame. The fact that they persevered is inspiring. The fact that they had to is shameful.

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