It wasn’t so long ago
Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple that helped secure our right to interracial marriage (Getty Images)
If you happen to be a multiracial person hailing from one of the 16 southern states and are 50+ years old, it’s likely that your parents committed a felony by having you. That’s because it was only 49 years ago that the Supreme Court overturned laws forbidding interracial marriage in the landmark 1967 decision, Loving vs. Virginia. The trial brought an end to the years-long legal battles of Mildred and Richard Loving—perhaps the most aptly named couple in history—whose home was raided one night by police because they were married, she was black, and he was white.
Thanks in part to their successful fight, the number of interracial families in the U.S. has grown rapidly, and the people who identify as multiracial are becoming more united and outspoken, too. Nonprofit organization Loving Day encourages celebrations of the June 12 anniversary of the historical decision around the globe. It recently held its 13th annual flagship party in New York. But this year, the group is pressing for more recognition of Loving Day: with a petition to the White House for a national day of observance.
“When you learn about race, it’s like, you’re either X, Y or Z,” says Catherine Leung, an event organizer for Loving Day NYC. She said that an official recognition of Loving Day would be not only a symbol of acknowledgement for the struggles of multiracial people but a message for multi-ethnic people all over: “To have that would have had a huge impact on me growing up, not really knowing that there was a community for that, that we even were a community and that it’s something to celebrate.”
A feature-length film portraying the struggles of the Lovings recently premiered at Cannes Film Festival, called Loving. It will be released in theaters on November 4. Loving Day’s founder Ken Tanabe felt that the swell of interest due to the film’s premiere makes for apt timing of the petition—and spreading awareness on interracial families and identity.
According to a 2015 Pew Research study, there are an estimated 6.9% of Americans who are more than one race. “If we’re talking about a group that’s roughly the size of the Asian American population, then that deserves some recognition,” says Tanabe. Rather than choosing one or the other race, multiracials are now building community and celebrating pride. “The reason why multiracials have not been recognized is that we have this 100-years old racial classification system,” Tanabe explained, pointing to the archaic breakdown of groups used in Census data collection. “It’s not a scientific breakdown, it’s a social construct. And it’s the premise for the racism that we see today.”
Sign the Loving Day petition by June 29.