Love is Love: Remembering Pulse & Loving

Love is Love: Remembering Pulse & Loving

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June 12 has become a very significant day.  Today is the 50th anniversary of the landmark case Loving vs. Virginia.  It is also the one year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, where 49 innocent lives were lost.

Both are very closely intertwined.  On June 12, 1967, the ruling by the Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia allowed couples of different races to marry — striking down the slavery era prohibitions to such unions.  This case was used as the foundation of the case that allowed gays to marry. That freedom to love and to be happy was attacked by a lone gunman on June 12, 2016.

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Iconic photo of Richard and Mildred Loving that originally appeared in Life Magazine

As I reflect on the significance of this day, I mourn the lives that were lost simply because of who they are or who they love. Interracial couples still face hurdles as well as racism (even though 1 in 10 couples in America are interracial).

I think about the rise in hate crimes under this current administration, and pray that the strong minded among us will join me in the fight against hate in all forms.

Evil flourishes when good people stand by and do nothing.

Please see my pieces — on being part of an interracial couple in “Love Winshere; my tribute to the Lovings here; and my reaction one year ago to the Pulse shooting in “It Could Have Been Mehere.

In solidarity,

M.

Nightclub Shooting Victims
Remembering the 49 lives tragically lost at Pulse Nightclub
Legal Divas of Color: Mildred Loving

Legal Divas of Color: Mildred Loving

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Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967 courtesy of Francis Miller/The Life Picture Collection/Getty

Usually, my Legal Divas of Color series features female attorneys that have been trailblazers in our world. But after seeing the Oscar nominated movie Loving  [finally], I was moved to switch gears in my final Legal Diva of Color for Black History Month 2017.

Mildred Loving was a woman of color who married the love of her life.

Small problem: he was white, and it was the 50’s in America. This was at a time in history when there were laws for bidding interracial marriage (called miscegenation laws). The couple lived in Virginia, but went to Washington DC where interracial marriage was legal to get married. After being arrested (snatched out of their beds in the middle of the night while she was far along in her pregnancy with their first child), a long legal battle ensued. The Lovings pled guilty to violating the “Racial Integrity Act“, with the condition that they do not live in the state of Virginia for 25 years.  The Lovings were close to their extended family; the forced separation began to take a toll. After urging from a family member, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He was not able to help her, but he referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. The legal battle continued, winding its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. Finally, they received relief with the ability to live as man and wife in 1967.

The tragic ending of the story is that Richard Loving passed away seven years after they won their battle — killed by a drunk driver. Mildred never remarried, and lived in the house that he built for her until the day she passed away. When interviewed before she passed away in 2008, she said “I miss Richard. He took care of me”.

That was one of many times I was brought to tears during the course of the movie. It was very much a love story as well as a legal battle. The Lovings overcame so much just to be together but they did not get their “forever” story in this life.

When I heard that quote, I think back to this weekend where I was struggling with a really bad cold. As I was laying down mouth breathing, my husband calls to me from the next room “did you use Vicks vapor rub?” I couldn’t give much of an answer because I felt so terrible. He came in, rubbed the afflicted areas, gave me a kiss, and left the room to continue what he was doing. I think of those small tender moments in the context of love, and what Mildred was missing for those years after her Richard passed away.

The other emotional part of the movie for me was the involvement of the ACLU in fighting for this couple and all couples to follow be able to marry who they love. The Loving case is part of the basis used to obtain the rights for gays to marry in America. This case has so many ripples; if the ACLU did not take on the battle, it would be a very different story. My husband and I, as well of hundreds of thousands of other couples since then, would not be able to legally be with who they love.

I am so proud to be a part of this organization. When asked during my interview why I wanted to come to the ACLU, I said quite simply “Loving vs. Virginia. If it was not for the ACLU, I would not be married to the love of my life.”

As an interesting footnote, most states struck down their miscegenation laws immediately after the Loving ruling. Alabama, however, was the last to do so in 2000. 40% of the population voted to keep this law, even though it was unconstitutional.

Although she is an unlikely heroine, Mildred Loving is one nonetheless. Mildred Loving, thank you for being a Legal Diva of color, paving the way for people to marry who they love  regardless of race or gender.

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Iconic Life Magazine photo of the couple, taken by Grey Villet 

See the original news report below:

#LoveWins: Interracial Relationship Realities

#LoveWins: Interracial Relationship Realities

Engagement picsLast Friday, Old Navy used an interracial family in a Twitter ad, and the Internet racist trolls lost their minds. The vile series of tweets were shocking to many, and a reminder that racism is real, alive and well. Many in interracial relationships took to Twitter with the hashtag #LoveWins to show support for the retailer being current in their ads. Jack McCain, son of Senator John McCain shared his photos with his African American wife, with a sweet note that told the racists to “eat it”.

I was no exception. — I shared this:

Tweet Love Wins

In our journey together, we have encountered the societal resistance from all races.

We get the white women who can’t possibly see what he sees in me, and will try to approach him. “He couldn’t meet a good blond woman like me, if I talk to him he will leave her” their eyes say.

African American men will give me blatant “side eye” on the street for “leaving my own race”. I’m a bit understanding of this, knowing how in the days of slavery, the slave masters would violate the sanctity of marriage and African American women’s bodies by raping them, leaving African American men powerless to stop it. This continued into the Jim Crowe era, when white men raped with no repercussions. That generational pain runs deep. However, times have changed. Ask Daniel Holtzclaw, the former police officer from Oklahoma serving 263 years for the sexual assaults of multiple African American women.

At an event, a judge told me a story of how on a particular Caribbean island, the women would marry white men so that their babies would be lighter and have better economic opportunities. He looked at me very pointedly as he told the story. I looked him evenly and said “how sad that the women felt they could not marry for love, and the economic conditions are so desperate”. This same judge refused on multiple occasions to acknowledge my husband.

My husband was dealing with customers one day at work. The companion of the customer felt the need to make a crack that “Obama is a thief“. My husband became unglued, knowing that the same would not be said of a white President. He angrily told him “Hey, my wife’s black“. The guy backpedaled, and said some ridiculousness.

But what sticks in my memory is visiting the small town in northern Idaho where my husband lived for a time. We still have a home there. We were at the grocery. There were a few unhappy looks, but I brushed them off. However, apparently the anger was so palpable to my husband that he became very concerned. He revealed to me in a discussion later that night that the town 45 minutes away was known for Ku Klux Klan activity.

I began to think in the dark, what would I do if someone burned a cross on the lawn? We were on five (beautiful) acres. No one could hear you scream. The police take at least 30 minutes if not more to respond.

If a cross burned, would we stay to prove a point? Or get on the next plane home?

Luckily, we never had to make that choice. But we did have the rifle in our wingspan.

Just in case. 

How do we deal with it all?

Much of it we ignore.  We laugh when we can, but we also have really intense discussions on race. My husband accompanies me whenever possible to see my work on social justice and the criminal justice system. We seek to open each other’s eyes on our points of view. I teach him about life as a person of color; he teaches me about how to further climb the ladder to success.

We were watching Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift one night. The main character was a young white man in a world of trouble with an Asian gang. Even though he was in a position of weakness, he demanded of one of the Asian crew to teach him how to race cars in their particular style (drifting).

I looked at my husband and said “that’s the ultimate in white privilege. How does he even think to do that?”

He looked at me, smiled, and said “Yep. You should try it sometime”. 

The lesson? Be bold, be brave, and step out of the box that people place you in. And don’t self-deselect.

It’s all about love, communication and having a true partnership.

Love is not about the color of one’s skin, but the content of their character.

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