Mo and I got married on a sweltering hot day in July of 2011. We had an outdoor ceremony near Madison, to show our families how much we loved the city where we chose to put down roots. We took a long break between the ceremony and reception to visit the Terrace, drink cold beer, and enjoy time with friends before the (thankfully) air-conditioned reception downtown. It was a beautiful day.
As we come up on our 10th wedding anniversary, we recognize that our sunny day would not have happened without another couple’s summer wedding. Mildred and Richard Loving got married in Washington, DC in June of 1958. They couldn’t get married in their own state of Virginia because he was white, and she was Black.
Loving Day is an unofficial holiday that recognizes the US Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, on June 12, 1967. This pivotal decision struck down all remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the country.
Miscegenation? That’s not a word you hear often. In a fraudulent political pamphlet in 1863, anonymous authors invented the word “miscegenation” and stated it meant interracial marriage and relations. Thus, the term began to be associated with “anti-miscegenation” laws in the 19th and 20th century. When the Lovings got married, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states.
Mildred and Richard Loving’s story got catapulted into history when they returned to Virginia after their wedding. On July 11, 1958, local police raided their home at 2am, pulled them out of bed, and arrested them for living together. They were sentenced to 1 year in prison, which was suspended if they agreed to leave Virginia and not return for 25 years.
To avoid prison, the Loving family relocated to Washington, DC where they lived for 5 years and had 3 children. All the while, they longed to return to Virginia. They were just regular people who wanted to live in a place they loved. An ACLU volunteer attorney took their case, and after years of work, they won the right to move home.
A quote resonated with me earlier this week: “And even now, interracial marriage remains a source of quiet debate over questions of identity, assimilation and acceptance.”
People like to put other folks in boxes, and frankly, we don’t fit neatly in one. Unlike the Lovings, the Cheeks family could legally live anywhere we wanted. But that doesn’t mean we’d feel safe everywhere. Opposition to interracial marriage and touting “racial purity” is a common thread in modern racial supremecist movements.
Yet the hope I hold is rooted in drastic shifts in acceptance over the decades. In 1967, 3% of all US marriages were interracial, and by 2015 the number rose to 17%. The Pew Research Center has fascinating data about Americans’ attitudes toward intermarriage over time. The short of it is- Americans are more supportive of interracial marriage than ever before.
1 in 7 infants born in 2015 were multiethnic or multiracial. As our own kids grow up with their increasingly diverse generation, they will teach us what it means to live together in this messy, worthwhile American experiment.
Our mixed family shows me that love intends to cross boundaries and bring people together. We get a small glimpse of what America could be, if we see one another for who we are, and value what our differences bring to the conversation.
Listening to one another’s stories is a good place to start. Today I encourage you to reach out to a friend, listen to a podcast, or read a book written by someone different than you. You will be emotionally richer for it.
It’s wild that only 44 years after the Loving v. Virginia ruling, we got married in our favorite city. Cheers to progress, and Happy Loving Day.
With love of course,
The other baker in the house
P.S. We are watching Loving on Netflix for the first time this weekend. If you decide to watch it also, we’d love to hear from you.
P.P.S. We are making progress on our hunt for a new oven. Thank you all for your patience and kind messages. Mo will hopefully be able to give an update on Tuesday.