Every human should be granted basic civil rights. The constitution itself claims we as American citizens are granted “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but does the government always allow us these civil liberties? Life, yes we are all granted the right to be alive, but liberty and true pursuit of happiness maybe not as much. Webster defines Liberty as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life”. Our nation has failed to provide the freedom of liberty to many.
Prior to 1967, the privilege to marry outside of one’s own race was unheard of in the United States. This may seem a bit outlandish considering the many freedoms granted to us today, but these freedoms were not easy to obtain. Now we are well aware that the color of someone’s skin should not influence how they are treated and who they should marry. A person does not decide who they love and they cannot control how they feel towards someone based exclusively on race. The unjust laws banning interracial marriage were defeated by the Supreme Court case Loving V Virginia and people were free to love as they wished.
Anti-miscegenation laws first came about in North America around the late 17th century. The term miscegenation means any person of a different race marrying or having a sexual relationship with a white person. Miscegenation relates closely to the word exogamy, a term used to describe people who marry someone that is from outside of their community or tribe. One of the laws put into action to discourage the act of miscegenation was The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which stated that every person is required to have a full racial description report when they were born.
There were only two groups that a child could be placed in: white people and colored people. The law made it clear that it was illegal for these two races to marry. In fact in one court case: Kirby V Kirby Mr. Kirby claimed his marriage was invalid because his wife was in fact part African American. The court made their decision that his wife was black and his marriage was void based on observations they made on her features and comparing them to an African Americans features. When these racial description reports were being created they followed the “one-drop rule”.
This rule meant that any human being with a drop of black blood was ruled African American (White, 2012). It did not matter if the child was almost completely white if there was any black blood in him or her it was determined they were African American. This separation of races in the union of marriage lasted for a great deal of time in our nation’s history, however, a brave couple helped to change this dated law. The case that helped all marriages or relationships of mixed races was the Loving v. Virginia case. Richard and Mildred Loving met in Caroline County, Virginia.
Mildred was an African American women and Richard was a Caucasian man that loved each other and wanted to be free to participate in this love. The couple had been dating for a couple of years when Mildred became pregnant with Richard’s child at the age of 18. This pregnancy prompted the couple to decide to get married. The Loving’s got married on June 2nd, 1958 in Washington, D. C, where it was legal for interracial marriages. However, when the married couple returned back to their home in Virginia they were both arrested and charged under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and unlawful cohabitation.
There trial was held in the Caroline County Circuit Court on January 6, 1959 at which The Loving’s pleaded guilty on their charges. Their sentence handed down from Judge Leon M. Bazile was one to three years in prison or they were not allowed to return to the state of Virginia for 25 years. The couple decides that they would move to D. C. Judge Leon Bazile concluded their trial by saying: Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no such cause for such marriages.
The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix (White, 2012). After their trial the Loving’s and their three children moved to the District of Columbia. Life in the capital was not easy for the family and they endured some hardships. Possibly their hardest struggle was when one of their children was hit by a car. They also had to deal with isolation due to the fact that they no longer lived close to their families and friends. Also, the move created a financial strain for the family.
Mildred Loving misunderstood her lawyer and was under the impression that she and her husband were allowed to visit their family together occasionally. This misunderstanding would prove to be a costly one. When they went to visit their families in Virginia five years later the Loving’s were then arrested again, this time for traveling together and returning back to the state of Virginia. Mildred Loving decided she could no longer be subjected to the unfairness any longer. She quickly became inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equality.
With the conviction that one cannot control who they love and the belief that they should not be required to she wrote to the attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy feeling for her case helped by referring the Loving’s to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU postponed the Loving’s sentence for the trial required for their second arrest due to the fact of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 violated the fourteenth amendment. This was not the first time that the fourteenth amendment was brought up in a case dealing with interracial relationships. In Pace v. Alabama (1883), the Supreme Court ruled that the conviction of an Alabama couple for interracial sex, affirmed on appeal by the Alabama Supreme Court, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment “(White 2012). The ACLU would have to try to convince the Supreme Court that the president on the fourteenth amendment involving miscegenation was wrong and should be changed. The fourteenth amendment came about in 1866 and gave African American’s the right of citizenship in America.
With the help of the ACLU the Loving’s case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. While the Loving’s case was still being decided the Lovings and the ACLU started a class action on October 28, 1964 in the United States District Court. A class action is when a group of people come together to stand up, fight for, and protest for a certain cause, in this case the class action was to outlaw all interracial marriage laws. The case was debated by the supreme court for a great deal of time; however, they finally came to a decision, on June 12th, 1967.
After a great deal of conversation the United States Supreme Court delivered the verdict stating: The Supreme Court overturned the Anti-Miscegenation Statute claiming that it was indirect violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, which requires that every individual citizen of the United States be entitled to equal, uniform, and unbiased protection and preservation with regard to the pursuit of happiness. The Supreme Court added that not only was the statute a violation of the 14th Amendment, but also to civil liberties and rights allowing for the privacy and individual freedoms entitled to American citizens (Loving v.
Virginia). For the first time the Lovings did not have to worry about going into Virginia or being a couple in any state. The Lovings, their family, and all other interracial marriages were finally free to live a peaceful, calm, and happy life together in matrimony. My grandparents, Francis and Gale Williams are currently in an interracial marriage. My grandmother, Gale, is Caucasian and my grandfather, Francis, is African American. My grandparents were both raised for the majority of their lives in Cumberland, Md. My grandmother is significantly older then my grandfather Francis. She is 14 years older than he is.
My Pap was not her only marriage. She was married once before to a white man this marriage, however did not last. After her divorce from her first husband she met my Pap. In 1971 they happily began their relationship together. My grandmother’s second marriage was not rushed in fact the two dated for seven years before they decided it was time for the two to become legally married. They said their I do’s on September 23rd, 1978. My great grandparents from both sides approved of the marriage and no objections because of race or any other reasons. My grandmother and pap were and still are very happy together.
When I asked my grandmother if they ever had problems with other people being harsh or if she caught people saying any rude comments to them and she answered, When we first got married and we would go out in public and hold hands we would always catch people starring at us and mumbling under their breath, but no one ever did confront us, and then as we got older and it started to become more acceptable in society we didn’t see this happening as much anymore. (Williams 2012). Although my grandmother may not notice, I sometimes still feel like every now and then people will stare and make comments, when we go out in public as a group.
My grandparents are very happy together and they love each other very much despite what other people think which is all that really needs to be taken into account. The truth is that the color of their skin does not matter to them and should not to anyone else. My grandmother’s love story has taught me a great lesson in life. She has taught me that it doesn’t matter what color someone’s skin is, it’s what is on the inside that should be taken into account. She has also taught me how to be brave and face adversity.
Had my grandparents not been so brave when they were dating back in the seventies I would have never known my pap. The culture we live in can be harsh and judgmental sometimes but what is important is that we stay true to ourselves and follow our hearts, regardless of what other people deem acceptable or not. Even though these laws have been abolished for over forty years, it is not hard to come across remnants of these rules in society today. For example many children who are raised by racist parents are going to grow up treating African American people unfairly and may make fun of or be rude to colored people.
Or when they go out and see people who are in an interracial relationship, like my grandparents, they may point and stare or make hateful comments, but people of different races or who have relationships with people outside of their race do not deserve this judgment. Caucasian people who participate in this kind of out dated and unjustifiable behavior do not understand how hurtful they are. These judgmental members of today’s society may be jaded from a life that has taught them to uphold these twisted values or from being unfamiliar and uncomfortable with people of other races and or interracial relationships.
They should work on understanding that All American’s should be treated equal! These people would have been lucky to be born into a family with an interracial relationship such as my grandparents, they could have greatly benefited from the lessons I learned from my grandmother. The lessons I gained from my childhood of how it is more important what someone’s character shows rather than their appearance and that hateful remarks towards something you don’t understand are not justified are just two of the lessons I learned from my grandparents’ relationship that the world would gain an advantage from learning.
Before people who were engaged in an interracial marriage had to go to a different state to be legally married, they had to leave their homes and families in order to earn the right to love freely. These couples had to worry about being arrested and jailed for the simple basic act of pursing true happiness by expressing their love to one another. Every person they encounter led them to worry about how rude naive people judging them and if this person would lead to a negative experience.
These couples had to deal with much more than the average couple and in the case of the Lovings they were determined to not give up on the love they shared for one another, they were willing to take the downs of an unfair life and counter them with the beautiful ups of love. Now times have changed and the laws are broken. Now African American people, Caucasian, Hispanic, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian and so on can be married legally, happily, and forever. Marriage of any race together should have always been legal; no one should have had to suffer from this law. People are now free o live how they want and express their feelings freely in matrimony. Even though they still may be judged by people in modern society, they should not let it bother them and how they live. Just think if the Loving’s had let the judgments of others bother them we would never know freedom like we do know. The Loving’s never planned on becoming some sort of celebrities, they never wanted all the attention that comes with a supreme court case all they wanted was the freedoms everyone else is granted. They just wanted to be free of other people’s harsh assumptions and unfair laws.
This couple was brave and decided they had enough of the prejudices they had become accustomed to and because of that we can say that as Americans we are closer to Life Liberty and The pursuit of Happiness. There are many circumstances in today’s world that can easily relate back to the scenarios in the Loving’s life. Many people are still being faced with unacceptable amounts of prejudice and unfair, ignorant judgments. These people must take a lesson out of the Lovings’ book or maybe my grandparents’ and understand that with time and work maybe they will also, see a much fairer and equal America.
Civil Rights cases have been around since the birth of The United States and there will always be a group of people pushing forward, reaching towards a simple shared goal. The goal is equality and if they do so as the Loving’s did, with a desire to love and a humble heart they can be assured they will reach the finish line victorious and free to be themselves.
Page Fourteenth amendment. (2012, September 14). Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution Loving v. Virginia. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://cases. laws. com/loving-v-virginia
Loving v. Virginia: The case over interracial marriage. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. aclu. org/racial-justice/loving-v-virginia-case-over-interracial-marriage Porterfield, E (1978). Black and white mixed marriages. Chicago: Nelson Hall. White, R. (2012, July 23). Loving v. Virginia. Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Loving_v. _Virginia Williams, G. (2012, October 25). Interview by C Hamilton [Personal Interview]. Wikipedia Contributors. (2012, October 26). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Anti-miscegenation_laws_in_the_United_States