DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A HISTORIAN. I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL AND HAVE SOME COLLEGE CREDITS, but with all that is going on in the world right now, with the demand for racial equality, with the Black Lives Matter movement, finally gaining the speed and the traction, it should have a long time ago, I feel it is important to share these two “history lessons.” I am sharing both of these because I think they are relevant to today but I am not trying to compare the two situations as they same thing. They simply both deal with racism.
Ten years ago, I was pregnant with my daughter and taking an online sociology course. As I recall, the chapter started about what constituted as a “marriage”. I remember the book was slightly outdated because Gay Marriage had passed in California in 2008 (even though it was fought in the higher courts for years before finally being upheld in 2013) and the book referenced that the fight for Gay Marriage was still being debated.
I remember reading a passage in the chapter about “The Loving’s.” I had never heard of them. Are you familiar with their name? They were a white man, Richard and a black woman, Mildred, that had been legally married in Washington D.C. because they could not get married in their home state of Virginia. They were arrested for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and had to flee their community to go live in Washington D.C. for 5 years where their marriage would be legally recognized. They always wanted to go back home to their small town in Virginia where whites and blacks got along even though, the time they were living in was the late 50’s, at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Mildred wrote to the ACLU and with their help, their case went to the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, in a unanimous decision the ban on interracial marriages was lifted. Today is “Loving Day!” a day to mark the end of the ban.
Before reading their story, it had never occurred to me that I was in an interracial marriage. I was 27 years old the first time this ever even crossed my mind. We had been married for 4 years by then. My hubs is Mexican and I am a mixture of European decent (aka white with some other nationalities mixed in.) I had no idea that because of 2 people in the 60’s, I had the ease of being able to marry the person I wanted too. Thank you to the Loving’s for fighting the fight, on behalf of all the people who love people who are different races than they are.
Something else I just recently learned about was the Chinese Exclusion Act. I was listening to a podcast a few months ago (Mobituaries with Mo Rocca; Episode: Anna May Wong: Death of a Trailblazer) and learned that in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first immigration law that excluded an entire ethnic group of people from immigrating to the United States and created huge barriers for the Chinese that were already living here. At the time the Chinese composed only .0002 of the nations population. If a white woman married a Chinese man, she lost her citizenship even if she was born in America. A Chinese man could not marry a white woman. White men were prevented from marrying Chinese women. The law was finally overturned in 1943.
My grandparents were allowed to legally be married 3 years later. I don’t remember my grandparents ever talking about this as actually being an issue for them. My grandfather was off fighting in WW2 while they were dating and they got married shortly after he came home. I do remember hearing stories about how my great- great- great grandfather immigrated from China via Hawaii. I remember always specifying that I had Hawaiian-Chinese heritage. (I wonder now as an adult and after hearing about this Act, that if due to the treatment of Chinese, this is why we always made it clear we were HAWAIIAN-Chinese; perhaps as a declaration to also point out we were of American decent.) I also remember my grandma telling me stories that during the war, she had to carry special identification to show she was Chinese and not Japanese decent, so she wouldn’t be taken to an interment camp. Ironic since just years earlier Chinese were so hated.
I don’t remember hearing about either the Loving’s or the Chinese Exclusion Act ANYTIME when I was in school. When my daughter was young, my hubs and I decided to raise our children with History. Along with our families and friends, we have always tried to expose them to histories and the fights of others.