On occasion, I sometimes take a look at the ephemeris. If I usually record an event, it means that we are approaching a major anniversary date. This morning, I am interested in a Supreme Court decision, not because it highlights 25, 40 or 50 years, but because of the current context.
On June 12, 1967, a couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, won their case before the highest court. The husband is white and his spouse black. Before 1967, 16 American states still prohibited interracial marriages.
In 1958, the couple left Virginia to get married in Washington. Virginia still applied a law of 1927 which prohibited mixing, to preserve the purity of the breed. The name of the law could not be more precise: Racial Integrity Act. Upon returning to Virginia, the couple was arrested in the middle of the night and was sentenced to one year in prison. The only possible escape is to leave Virginia.
The Loving will then settle in Washington, where a real obstacle course begins to overturn the legislation. In 1963, desperate, Mildred Loving wrote to prosecutor Robert Kennedy, who then redirected the couple to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Before being able to seek the advice of the United States Supreme Court, the couple will have to do battle with that of Virginia. Started in 1963, the proceedings did not find their outcome until 1967.
The Supreme Court’s decision will be unanimous. The ban on interracial marriages will be deemed contrary to 14e amendment. Marriage is considered a fundamental right and cannot be denied on the basis of a racial classification. This is what Chief Justice Earl Warren confirmed when he wrote in the judgment: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State. ” The name of the cause will leave a lasting impression. “Loving [le nom du couple] vs Virginia “could also be translated:” Love against Virginia “.
Here I summarize the story of a struggle that is not that far back in time. How many of you were born at the time? Unfortunately, we should not be surprised by the current debates when we realize that we had to wait until 1967 to force all American states to stop resorting to discriminatory laws.
If prohibiting interracial marriages became illegal in 1967, however, it would be necessary to wait until 2000 before all states had in fact accepted the judgment. The last state to do so was Alabama. My current students were born the same year … We are in the XXIe century.
To end on a slightly more positive note, I refer you to a Pew Research Center survey carried out in 2017. According to the data collected, the perception of interracial marriages is constantly changing. For 39% of respondents, these unions are a good thing for American society.
If the evolution as a whole is positive, reading the whole of the data brings important nuances. The number of interracial marriages is on the rise, but reluctance remains, for both whites and blacks.
Regional disparities are also significant, even in states deemed to be more progressive. I have stayed many times in San Francisco and Boston. If I have frequently encountered mixed couples on the West Coast, I have rarely seen them in the cradle of American independence. If things get better, the pace of this development is slow.