Today the big marriage issue captivating the country is the debate around same-sex unions. But, not long ago, it was inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages that sparked intense political and legal debate across the 50 states. It wasn’t until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court officially legalized interracial marriages on a national level. The case was Loving vs. the State of Virginia, named fittingly after the newlywed couple who brought the case before the court, Mildred Jeter Loving and Richard Loving. Mildred was African American and Richard was white, and though they lived in Virginia, they married in Washington DC, where interracial marriage was legal. Upon their return to Virignia, they were arrested. With the help of the ACLU, their case eventually reached the Supreme Court, and with the court’s decision, all interracial couples in the U.S. were legally free to marry.
This landmark court decision is now commemorated as Loving Day, celebrated with events and festivities across the country on June 12th, the day of its passing. To honor this year’s 44th Anniversary of Loving Day , StoryCorps San Francisco teamed up with the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Loving Day national organization, LovingDay.org, to host a special community recording and art-making day for multiracial, multiethnic and mixed heritage individuals, couples, and families. We also set up listening stations with some of our favorite Loving Day-related broadcast stories.
As they came out of the booth, many participants shared with us that this was the first time they’d talked about their racial and ethnic identities so candidly with their loved ones. The laws might have changed and bi-racial identity is now much more common, but along with the pride and self-love there is still stigma and misunderstanding in the daily lives of many people in mixed race relationships and people who are the children of these partnerships. This stigma led to Robin Raber-Luna’s estrangement from her own family after meeting the man who would later become her husband, Roy, who is Filipino American. Robin’s parents, who were Jewish American, didn’t approve of their relationship, and reconciliation only came later when they had their daughter, Rachel Hammer-Luna. In the booth, Robin emotionally described to Rachel, now 24, how difficult and painful that time was, but how they found acceptance and community in the Bay Area, where interracial couples were more common than other places they’d lived. Here, Rachel was able to grow up proud of her bi-cultural and bi-racial heritage.
Like Rachel, Mariko Fritz-Krockow, 28; Adria Richards, 33; and Sian-Pierre Regis, 26, all identify as bi-racial. They stepped into the booth together to share their experiences of growing up mixed-race, or as “mixies,” as Mariko likes to call herself and fellow bi-racial, bi-cultural friends. Mariko talked about how she grew up in Germany as German-Japanese and how people were always shocked she could speak German. Adria spoke of people constantly asking “what” she is, and the many assumptions people make of her experience, while for Sian-Pierre one of the biggest challenges is when, in predominantly Black settings, he’s experienced judgment for identifying himself as bi-racial. Despite the stories of on-going challenges, everyone who came to honor Loving Day was there ultimately to celebrate exactly what the day is all about: the undying and unbreakable power of love-in partnerships, for oneself, in friendships, and in family.