Now before you get too excited - cause it ain't THAT kind of holiday - here’s what Loving Day is really all about:
Loving Day - and it's coming up this Friday, June 12th - is in recognition of the 1967 U.S Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage nationwide. It is named after a Virginia couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman, who were arrested and convicted of violating that state’s ban against interracial marriage.
The couple had gone to Washington, DC for their wedding, where interracial marriage was legal, and later returned to their rural Virginia community. One night, while Mr. and Mrs. Loving were in bed, the local sheriff came to their home and arrested them for violating the state’s “Racial Integrity Act,” which made marriage between whites and non-whites a felony. The Virginia judge who heard their case ordered them to move out of the state, or face an extended jail sentence, ruling that "God... did not intend for the races to mix.”
The couple appealed their conviction all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that the Virginia law - and similar bans on the books in several other states at the time - was unconstitutional. The ruling was issued on June 12, 1967. (That’s right, just 42 years ago.) In a stroke of poetic justice, the case is known as Loving v. Virginia, and irony of ironies, the state's tourism slogan is "Virginia is for Lovers."
Inspired by the Lovings’ story, a biracial guy by the name of Ken Tanabe created the LovingDay.org website. It’s designed to encourage folks to celebrate, in ways both large and small, the anniversary of this historic Supreme Court decision.
(Sadly, Richard Loving was killed in a car accident in the 1970s, and Mildred Loving passed away last year.)
As I write this, Loving Day celebrations are being planned in a number of cities as well as private homes over the June 12-14 weekend. You can visit www.lovingday.org for more information. Further details about the case and an interview with Ken Tanabe can be found in my book, “Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial America.” Ken’s website even has a "starter kit" if you’d like to launch a Loving Day party in your home or community.
It is worth noting here that when Barack Obama was born in 1961, his parents’ marriage would have been against the law in more than 20 states, including Virginia. Fast forward to today: results from the 2008 election show Obama won Virginia with 52.6% of the vote. It's the first time a Democrat has carried the state in a presidential election since 1964.
So the state that once exiled a couple for marrying interracially helps elect the child of an interracial couple President of the United States! Regardless of your politics, you would have to be a curmudgeon of the tallest order not to feel something about what this says about the arc of history.
Happy Loving Day, y'all!
(A version of this post also appears at www.lewisfreelance.com)