In Honor of Mildred Loving

 

Maybe the saying is true, “once you go Black, you never go back.”  I’m a living example of that truth.  I do know one thing for certain.  When I went, I never came back.

I am a white man.  The day I crossed over happened when I was in junior high school.  Girls became interesting in a whole different way.  A young woman I knew since kindergarten, someone with whom I shared a long friendship, suddenly she looked very different. 

We ended up together by chance at a birthday party at a lake in the woods.  It was one of those moments that threaten to fall into cliché.  She exuded a beauty I did not know existed.  A bright morning sun shined on her face and shaded her cheeks glow a golden brown, 

We were only 14 years old but I fell in love with her that day.  She offered me entrance into a special place from which I never returned.  That day I not only fell in love with my friend but I fell in love with the world in which she lived.  It was a world gifted me an honor I treasure to this day.

 

Mildred and Richard Loving

 

It was 1964, a mere five years after the state of Virginia imprisoned state residents Mildred and Richard Loving for committing a felony crime.  She was black.  He was white.  They were high school sweethearts who upon graduation chose to get married and raise a family.  But Virginia had “anti-miscegenation” laws intended to put an end to their very typical American dreams: If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the  enitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.

It would not be until 1967 that the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled Virginia’s law to be unconstitutional, in the process overturning the Loving’s conviction and ending race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Needless to say, my friend and I did what we could to keep our relationship secret. We were young and in love with no idea what the price of innocence could be.  It wasn’t long before we learned.

I’m still learning and the richness of that learning is one reason why I will never go back.