50 Years Ago, My Marriage was Illegal

12 Jun 2017

Today is the 50th anniversary of Loving Day, which celebrates the landmark civil rights decision of Loving v. Virginia. This court decision made interracial marriage legal. I wouldn’t be allowed to be married to my wife if this court case had not overturned anti-miscegenation laws. I feel simultaneously blessed and livid. Blessed because I love my wife, I’m glad we could get married without it ever entering our heads that it might not be legal to do so. Livid, because 50 years wasn’t that long ago.

Remembering this court case feels especially prescient with Donald Trump as our president. Donald Trump got elected by stirring up racism. Spending years pressing a lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Launching his campaign calling Mexicans rapists. Claiming a judge is biased because “he’s a Mexican”. Making Jeff Sessions his attorney general. A man deemed too racist 30 years ago to become a federal judge. Making Steve Bannon his White House Chief Strategist. A man who believes legal immigration is the source of America’s problems. I could go on. And this doesn’t even touch on the terrible, and creepy attacks made towards women, disabled people, and Kristen Stewart.

I could write ad infinitum about Donald Trump’s horribleness. He has been a punch line in American culture longer than I’ve been alive. A congealed, soupy mixture of spoiled brat, shock jock, and reality tv star poured into a laughably oversized ego. Oh, don’t forget the tiny hands.

The fact that people would have the audacity to make laws banning interracial marriage just 50 years ago sounded pretty far fetched before the 2016 election. Not so with Donald Trump as president, and the party of “family values” running the country. Who knows what short-sited mishaps a petulant moron like Trump could bring.

I don’t for a minute believe Donald Trump would ban interracial marriage. That ship has sailed. Most of his wives are immigrants. I do believe he would happily make banning interracial marriage a campaign promise if he thought it would get him elected.

It seems much more likely that Donald Trump is scummy enough to drum up racism because he knows it will appeal to disillusioned white people in Middle America. The same racism that banned interracial marriage and has a strong representation within his cabinet and inner circle. I know what that kind of racism looks like. I grew up in North Carolina. I had classmates with confederate flags on their cars. The red one with stars on it, not the real one. The real confederate flag is just a white flag, for surrender. The school I went to was a christian school formed in 1958, 4 years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. Forming an all white, christian school was their way of “making segregation great again”, so to speak.

That school and the students in it were perfectly willing to give impassioned diatribes about how the Civil War was not about slavery, it was about state’s rights. This is flatly false, and easy to disprove. Here’s a quote from Texas’ declaration of succession titled “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union”

“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”

Or what about Mississippi declaring

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”

There are more, it’s not that hard to find. This acknowledgement of America’s racist past makes people uncomfortable. And they deny it. “Fake News!” At his most basic level, that’s Donald Trump. Someone who makes you feel like you can deny responsibility or consequences. Because that’s the only thing he’s good at.

Loving v. Virginia represents one of those precious moments in American history where our ideals matched our actions. After spending decades of putting up walls in the form of laws, reality caught up and a crack was formed. The cognitive dissonance of loving your country and being reminded of atrocities made by that same country pushes people to deny reality and make laws like the anti-miscegenation of the 1900’s. I worry that we’re experiencing that same collective rationalization of hate and Donald Trump is our cheerleader. “Fake News!”

I have hope that reality will catch up with Donald Trump and his merry band of losers. I don’t expect things to go back to “normal”. If Trump goes away, it doesn’t mean racist laws stop being made. We will always have to fight for freedom and truth. We just can’t lose sight of how precious it is to live in a country where freedom and truth is possible.