Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rest in Peace Mildred Loving

Yesterday Mildred Loving, born Mildred Jeter, died at the age of 68. She and her husband, Richard Loving, made history in the 1960s when they challenged Virginia's anti-miscegenation law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1967 the Court decided that anti-miscegenation laws nationwide violated the Constitution's equal protection clause, and so with Loving v. Virginia, laws banning inter-racial marriages were nullified across the U.S.

Mildred and Richard Loving did not set out to make history or become civil rights activists. They simply wanted something very basic: to love one another, to marry, and to live together. Last June, during the 40th anniversary marking Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Loving issued a rare public statement (she stopped granting interviews in the last years of her life)--in the last paragraph, Loving links the Supreme Court decision not only to anti-miscegenation or anti-inter-racial unions, but to a legacy that also includes or should include supporting queer unions:

"I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

For more on Mildred Loving's 40th anniversary statement and some astute analysis about the legacy of Loving v. Virginia, both in terms of the long history of inter-racial unions and anti-miscegenation laws as well as the links to current queer rights struggles for gay marriage, go to this excellent blog post from a year ago at "Slaves of Academe." For the New York Times obituary, click here.


uglyblackjohn said...

Interesting site. One doesn't usually here race relations from an Asian perspective. Your profile states that you live in the South-how's that working out for you?

Jennifer said...

Hi Ugly Black John,
Thanks for finding your way to my blog and leaving a comment.

A few things based on what you've written:

*I suppose in terms of mainstream media, Asian American voices are often absent in terms of giving their opinion (or having their opinions solicited) which gives the impression that Asian Americans don't have observations about race to offer.

However, I think a lot is in who you hang out with, what circles you travel in, where you choose to focus your interests/attention.

In which case, I have always had Asian American friends, and white and black and Latino and American Indian friends, share their observations about race with me, privately and then as I started to really immerse myself in this topic academically, professionally.

And if you are interested, there are many blogs by Asian American people who write about issues of race, ones that don't just pertain to Asian Americans but to general race issues in the U.S.

*As for living in the South, I'd say that I've had many of the stereotypes I hold about the South challenged while living here, which is good, from my pov, because I like push back and I like to be challenged about the bigoted or short sighted beliefs that I have.

Now, having said that, I also have to say that race relations, in many ways, are what I had thought they would be (and what I was told they would be) which is to say, an attention focused mostly on black-white with some attention to Latino populations. But in many ways, aside from urban areas and the West coast, this is generally how Asian Americans are treated--as absent/invisbile or mistakenly believed to be "model minorities"--if you are really intested, you can do a search of this site for "south" and probably read some of the posts where I found myslf more frustrated by the way I felt I was mis-read or the kinds of weirdness I've encountered here (a lot of which has to do with gender, but also become racially inflected because we really can't pick out the two).