Sunday, March 8, 2009

Loving v. Virginia,

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot bar interracial marriage.
The next day The Chicago Defender, an African American News Organization, had two major news headings. The bigger one was “Striking Welfare Workers May Return to their Jobs. “ The smalled headline read “Top Court Strikes Down Mixed Marriage Ban.” On the front cover was a photo of a white man, Richard P. Loving, hugging an African American woman, Mildred Loving. This couple together with the American Civil Liberties Union brought a suit against Virginia to protest a ban on inter-racial marriage.
The story on the front page was a reprint of a letter from the president of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company addressed to the Chicago Defender. It congratulated the paper for it’s anti-violence campaign.
The article was only three paragraphs long. It said that the Supreme Court unanimously declared state laws banning mixed racial marriages as unconstitutional. The second stanza said the ruling struck down miscegenation laws in 16 states because the laws violated -- and here the article quoted the supreme court decision-- “the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.“ This quote adds a celebratory tone to the article, but the writer doesn’t openly express his views on the matter. It saddens me that this landmark civil right case got so little attention.

Fortunately, the current controversy over gay marriage is much louder.
The Los Angeles Times had better coverage than the Chicago Defender. It printed a front page story titled Ban on Interracial Marriages Struck Down by 9-0 Decision.
The article spoke about the judgement, it quoted the judges, and profiled the Lovings. The author quoted the judge who ordered the Lovings to leave Virginia. He said the quote epitomized the prevailing views in the South on interracial marriages. The quote said, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separated continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The article had one strange phrase. It said, “Naturally, there was nothing in the opinion that could be taken as lending encouragement to the idea of interracial marriage. What the ruling boiled down to is that it is illegal for Virginia to prohibit Negroes and whites from marrying. “
These two sentences remind me of an article by the New York Times about Brown Vs Board of Education. In that story the New York Times writes was saying well ‘equality’ only means ‘legal equality’. And here they’re saying, well it’s legal, but not necessarily recommended. In both cases I felt like the writers were saying ‘It doesn’t matter that much. It’s not such a big. It’s not going to change anything.’


  1. I agree that this should have gotten more attention, especially being near the end of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. With that said, maybe because this is when many were still fighting for their rights, this ruling did not receive as much support as it should have. In terms of gay marriage today, while the passing of Prop 8 was a huge step backward, we see the uproar that we do because people are much more vocal.

  2. I also agree that the story on interracial marriage should have received more attention. It is an issue of not only race but on social conditioning. I believe that for those citizens who look to the government and its laws for verification on what is morally and/or correct social behavior, (which I do not but some do) this case probably changed their world views.
    The current situation of gay marriage is most likely going to take a lot longer to be improved. The passing of proposition 8, religious viewpoints as well as the fact that homosexuality crosses gender, racial and class divides will slow up progress. A massive movement with parties from all the social categories I have just mentioned need to be mobilized. The media also would need to cover more stories on the outrage people feel about the Prop 8 passing.