Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional. The landmark decision was based on the case Loving vs. Virginia, named after Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving. The two fell in love and got married but since he was white and she was part Native American and part black, their marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia. In fact, they were both arrested and jailed for breaking the law.
In 1967, the Lovings won the right to be legally married and the Supreme Court decision overturned the law in the 16 states that had banned interracial marriage. Since then, June 12th has become known as Loving Day, an annual celebration to honor this historic ruling.
Fast forward to today and statistics show that mixed marriages have increased dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, 1 out of every 6 newlyweds today marries someone from a different ethnic group or with different skin color. If you also include families who have adopted internationally and/or across ethnic and color lines, you see great diversity not only between families but also within families.
I have mentioned both family of origin and family structure as two important dimensions of culture. In honor of Loving Day, I encourage you to focus on increasing the number of mirrors around your home if your family is mixed. If your family is similar in terms of ethnic background and skin color, then I encourage you to increase the number of windows your children have to discover and learn about mixed families.
How can you get started? First, visit your local library and request books that describe families that have different ethnic backgrounds and different skin colors. I recommend:
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko
black is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff
My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin
Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
Two Mrs. Gibsons by Toyomi Igus
I Am Tan by Michele Rose
Before you share these books with your children, read them yourself and make sure you’re comfortable with each book. When you’re ready, sit down and read them together. As you start conversations about families that are mixed, remember these important tips:
- Don’t make any assumptions. Don’t assume that two people who look alike are family members and don’t assume that two people who look different are not family members.
- Talk to your children about the mixed families you know. Identifying and talking about differences is a great starting point and it’s a healthy thing to do as long as there is no judgement. There is no right or wrong way to be a family.
I hope this information is helpful and encourages you to think about different families. Now that you know about Loving Day, what will you and your family do to celebrate this special day?