On the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Marriage: When Race Isn’t the Only Difference

On the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Marriage: When Race Isn’t the Only Difference


Rebecca Bodenheimer, PhD, Independent Scholar & Researcher

[Rebecca Bodenheimer is the author of Geographies Of Cubanidad: Place, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba]

Our story is not the Loving story. It is a tale of interracial love and marriage — like the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose journey was beautifully and poignantly represented in the 2016 Jeff Nichols film Loving — and yet, it’s so very different. Fifty years ago, the Lovings took on the state of Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage in a landmark Supreme Court case, and on June 12, 1967, they won, hammering the final nail in the coffin of state prohibitions on interracial marriage. The Lovings were relatively similar in terms of background, including aspects of class, region, and language. The only thing that separated them was race. This is not to minimize the huge significance of racial difference, particularly in the 1950s South, but only to emphasize that in terms of other aspects of their identity, they were actually quite compatible with each other. One of the main messages I took away from the Loving movie was the gulf between the huge significance of race from a legal and social perspective, and its insignificance in the daily life of the Lovings. This story was not about a couple who set out to challenge a racist law, or even to take a stand on racial equality, at least not at first; rather it was about a man and woman in love, trying to do what was best for their family.

I am a white American woman married to a black Cuban man, and we have a mixed-race son. Despite the surface similarities between our story and that of the Lovings, especially as seen from an outsider’s perspective, I have always perceived our biggest divisions as related not to race, but rather to culture and class…

…I struggle with the potential perception of anti-blackness that identifying my son as mulato (or “mixed-race”) instead of “black” may present here in the U.S. On the other hand, doing so would erase the cultural specificity of racial categories in Cuba. Quite simply, my son would never be identified as black by his father or in Cuba. Ultimately, it will be up to him to decide how to identify himself, and unless it’s to claim he’s white, I have no skin in the game….

Read the entire article here.

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