First, a shout out to the Internet. Really, where else can you type in “Interracial Marriage” and learn that it has a very scientific name?? I love learning!
OK, now that I got that out of my system, back to the topic at hand. Welcome to posting #2 in my series on Race. For those who don’t know me personally, I’m the product of an Interracial Marriage and find the practice to be simply despicable…it produces very strange children…wait. Maybe it’s not so bad. Let’s restate that. Interracial Marriage is AWESOME! It produces very good looking, well adjusted, talented children. That’s better.
Personal biases aside, in the U.S. miscegenation – race mixing – was illegal until 1967 when the Supreme Court unanimously declared it unconstitutional. Immediately a veritable rainbow of people ran out to get married to one another and lived happily ever after…
And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Allow me to paint a picture. The year is 1970. The place, Washington, DC at Children’s Hospital—the original Children’s off of U Street NW. A cute white nurse is standing at the nurses’ station in her short, sharply pressed whites, complete with the smart little cap, smoking a cigarette. The elevator doors open and a handsome black security officer, recently back from Vietnam, steps off the elevator and catches sight of our nurse. He is so struck by her beauty, and short skirt, he invites her to a party. Little does she know, he invited several other nurses in short skirts as well, but somehow they managed to get over his initial stupidity and married a year or so later.
Here we have the last picture of them truly happy, aka, pre children.
There was just one problem…black and white are not the same race. It turns out, the world was not quite ready for that idea. They found rather quickly in fact that many in the world were violently opposed to their relationship. At the beginning of their courtship, they found that often when seen in public they would encounter blatant hostility from others. There were people they had long considered friends who were anything BUT friendly to their decision. They found themselves being threatened on a regular basis—by people they knew as well as strangers.
Here’s the really appalling part—it still happens today.
I grew up with anecdotes about trips they had to cut short because angry groups of people—mobs essentially—were threatening to run them out of town. I have a very vivid memory of a trip to Virginia where a gang of motorcyclists circled our car on the highway and were yelling things I couldn’t understand and making obscene gestures. Now, in 2010, they don’t so much face that kind of outright, open harassment. Now it’s in some ways worse because it’s subtle. It’s the doctor who is being perfectly kind to Mom, then Dad walks into the room and his entire demeanor changes. It’s the new neighbor who is just ready to be BFFs with Dad, talking about introducing their wives to one another, then when Dad introduces Mom, suddenly it gets VERY chilly. There is part of me—and them—that prefers the outright hostility. At least with that, you know where you stand.
The part that I have never fully been able to wrap my brain around, and likely never will, is the simple question: Why?
Why does it matter so much to some people that two people who fell in love don’t look the same? I can understand how it was a long, long time ago when the color of your skin was a definitive marker of your station in life in this country. Those days are over. Why is it we can become so enlightened, so evolved, yet for some the idea of marrying outside of your race is still scandalous?
I could be crass and say that in the darkened bedroom, where all relationships end up eventually, we’re all the same color. But that would make my mother slap me, so I won’t say that.
Instead, I’ll point out the obvious platitude that it is what the person is like on the inside that matters. It is hard enough in this world to find someone to connect to period. If you are restricted by something as banal as outward appearance, the odds get even longer.
I firmly believe that my children’s generation is the first where there is a chance that this kind of bias won’t exist. My parents’ generation fought the civil rights movement, and that kind of conflict isn’t easy to just “get over”. As a result, my generation has carried a good number of the same biases. Even though we were not so directly a part of the conflicts, the residual feelings have lingered. But our kids have a chance—if we give it to them.
Love is hard. Relationships are hard. Why does society have to make it even harder by judging based on skin? If two people are in love and willing to take on all the baggage each other brings into a relationship, then frankly it is no one’s business to judge them. We have to teach the next generation the simple lesson from our friend Friedrich Nietzsche, on how to deal with love you may not understand: “Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.”
As for our cute nurse and handsome officer, they will be celebrating 40 years of wedded bliss next April. And by “bliss” I mean 40 years of sunshine and rain, arguments and make-ups, roses and thorns, good children (me) and bad ones (the rest of them). Yet through it all, they had one thing that really mattered—each other. I always knew growing up that their love for one another was the strongest force in the universe. And I don’t think the universe cares that their skin doesn’t match.