Photo Credit: Esthetic Collective
by Erin Washington
The dictionary defines the word miscegenation as a marriage or the cohabitation and all that it encompasses (sexual relations, and/or procreation) between two people of different racial groups. In the U.S., it’s most closely associated with the laws governing relationships between a black person and a white person. For many couples prior to 1967, miscegenation meant seclusion, fear, and disillusionment.
In the late 17th century, anti-miscegenation laws were introduced to enforce the racial segregation of marriage and intimate relationships. These laws criminalized interracial marriage (and even sex) between members of different races. After World War II, most states had repealed their miscegenation laws, but not Virginia.
In 1958, a black woman named Mildred Jeter and a white man, Richard Loving married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to their home in Virginia, they were sentenced to a year in prison for violation of Virginia’s miscegenation law. In their landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, on June 12, 1967, their sentencing was found to be unconstitutional in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court.
We were questioned for choosing such a “difficult path.”
As a caucasian woman living in Northern Virginia with my African-American husband and a one-year old daughter, our relationship has faced challenges, but because of Loving v. Virginia case, the legality of our marriage was not one of them.
People argue that because we come from different cultures, our relationship would never last. Some swore that our children would be ostracized because they won’t be accepted by either race.
In an incident, last month while traveling, my daughter and I were waved through a TSA barrier at Dulles Airport and directed to a different security line. My husband followed behind and was stopped by an agent who put a divider in front of him — “That’s my family,” he explained.
Arriving at our final destination, we stopped at the rental car counter. My husband was pushing our daughter in her stroller as I was walking a few steps behind. The woman at the counter asked, “whose baby is that?” My husband politely answered, “she’s my baby.” Painfully stories like these are far too common for interracial couples and their families. Much has changed since 1967, but much remains the same.
Love is love.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, one in seven babies born in 2015 were multi-racial or multi-ethnic. This number has tripled since 1980. But even though interracial families are becoming more common, my daughter will likely still face challenges growing up. I will be there to remind her that she is a beautiful little display of many cultures.
Photo credit: Kay Lucien
I can only hope that this type of thinking will disappear as new generations arise. My one-year-old daughter has no prejudice. She doesn’t see any difference between my husband’s family or my family — She loves them all unconditionally.
We gave our daughter the middle name, “Hope.” May she be some in this world. Her heart is pure. It’s a beautiful thing and I dread the day when her sweet nature becomes clouded with the prejudices of others. Children are born unbiased. We have to teach our children what is right and be their example in this world. I am committed to teaching my daughter that everyone deserves to love and be loved even when circumstances make loving difficult.
For years, there were people who didn’t understand or accept us as a couple. Their constant questioning and opinion-sharing made for an extremely tense relationship climate. Either of us could have chosen to take an easier path with a more socially-acceptable partner. But regardless of the obstacles that we knew might lie ahead, we both made a commitment to love.
To the late Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who challenged the state where we currently reside … We are eternally grateful for your strength and committed to honoring your legacy.