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:

Why Should We Care About Diversity in Hollywood?

Why Should We Care About Diversity in Hollywood?

 

 #OscarsSoWhite? 

In stark contrast, #SAGSoBlack. 

In a great kickoff to Black History Month, Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards proved what we all knew — there is no shortage of talented actors/actresses of color in Hollywood. Idris Elba won an award for his amazing portrayal of Luther, as well as his supporting role in Beasts of No Nation. I was incredibly pleased because after a Netflix session of binge watching Elba’s portrayal of tortured Detective John Luther, I completely understood why everyone’s across the pond sings  his praises from the rafters. Viola Davis continued her absolute domination of Thursday night with another award for How to Get Away with Murder. 

So why should we care about diversity in Hollywood?

Hollywood spends a great deal of time in our homes, resulting in Hollywood shaping our psyche. By audiences not seeing positive portrayals of people of color, coupled with negative images in the evening news, stereotypes become even more ingrained. 

The naysayers say “be patient, this is subjective, considering diversity is racist against Whites”

Really? 

I understand that an individual actor has to be patient in their quest for greatness. You have to get the right role to shine. But if people of color are not getting roles (including white actors playing African American characters, cue Michael Jackson), and those who do great work are not being recognized, then it is clear who the racism is against. 

Take a listen to my thoughts on BBC’s World Have Your Say, where I was invited to discuss whether or not Chris Rock should boycott his hosting duties at the Oscars. Link is here, segment begins at 17:50. 

See who the diverse winners of the SAG Awards here

M.