My friend Billy up in Berlin posted early in the day over on Instagram about a significant anniversary of the landmark case Loving v. Virginia, and I’ve posted the link above for two reasons. One is he sums it up succinctly and even provides a link if you want to read/learn more.
The other reason is that you should be following @DharmaAddict over there anyway. He’s an inspiration on a lot of levels. Truly.
I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the Supreme Court in the U.S., so even though I know about the case and the aftermath and the fact that it was cited in the case that eventually paved the way for gay marriage in all the states, I can imagine that’s not all common knowledge.
So many stories today are about our institutions failing us, so I love to remember sometimes things turn out right. Of course that’s my perspective, and I spend a lot of time online trying to stay above the fray. Try to engage with people I don’t necessarily agree with and be an open-minded and teachable person.
All those things coming from this son of a recently-deceased rather liberal Christian mother, so you’ll forgive me if I’m also writing in her honour as I try to get these thoughts out right.
Civil Rights are a sticky and uncomfortable subject, especially these days, and love is particularly hard to talk about. I’ve been watching the news stateside and for the most part I’ve tried to wait until tempers cooled before wading into any such topic. Enough people have said anglos should just listen for a while, and I heeded the warning. I’ve listened. I’m still listening.
However, it’s no accident that a white woman and black man marrying was somehow more palatable in those tense days in the late 60s. I’m not questioning that this ruling was landbreaking, but my resolution after listening as long as I could was and is to share honestly and from my heart about racial issues.
Although I was raised in a race conscious home, like many white kids my age I’ve learned a lot by being a Spike Lee fan. I’ll go into it another time how Do the Right Thing made an impact on me, but I’d rather talk about Jungle Fever here.
A black man and a white woman being together had been lynching material for generations, and that Lee was willing to confront the topic wasn’t lost on me. I went into the cinema knowing I’d be jostled. Knowing I’d be facing some of my own prejudices.
That’s how I look at my own racism, you know? Despite how woke or evolved I might think I am, my belief is that until I face my own racism – my own personal struggle with this insidious learned white supremacy – until I see that I’m unintentionally part of the problem, then I can’t truly understand where my well-meaning brothers and sisters might be coming from.
I don’t think I can fully explore such a topic in such a blogpost, but I can say I walked out of the cinema suitably upset that Wesley Snipes’ character had been unjustly treated. I’m purposely not giving a synopsis or even a nuanced review of the rest of the film. Not my point.
My point is that the film opened my eyes to something I’d only vaguely thought about. Love, especially romantic love, is such an essential human emotion, and the film made me think about how unfair it’d be if I loved someone of a different colour, but then I couldn’t express it. Express that truth in myself. Share it with even my family or the outside world.
It was a seed. It’d been planted. I’d already been pretty open on the topic, so it’s not like I had some Saul to Paul moment. Yet this piece of art had gotten me to really feel for this man. How he had to struggle with all the conflicting emotions of a man loving a woman, but with the added burden of racial discrimination. It hurt for me to imagine it and this was on top of all the other ways I’d already sympathised with my black brothers, and now? Now my understanding was deeper.
Perhaps more nuanced. Perhaps just more authentic. Not even sure anymore.
While I was listening this week to all the noise on all sides of the political spectrum, I vowed to myself that I’d share personally. Honestly. About my own struggle. About how I’m showing up to honour my friends, who happen to be black.
Yet that truly is my privilege. I get that. I knew it, but it’s even in more starker contrast now.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Mildred couldn’t marry her bethrothed Richard just because of the colour of their skin. My mom would point out how far we’ve come. She’d quickly say we’ve still got a long way to go. She’d be right.
I’ll say a little prayer tonight for the couple in Virginia who were finally allowed to express their love for each other openly and legally. One of gratitude that that arc of history is, in fact, bending toward equality for all.
Thank you, dear Lovings. If you see Mother Martha up there, tell her we’re sure you’d all get along. That’s if she’s not already found you herself.