Snapshot of anti-miscegenation laws in 1961, the year our current president was born.

Snapshot of anti-miscegenation laws in 1961, the year our current president was born.

The family name of Richard Perry Loving is a gift that keeps on giving. After contributing to perhaps the most leadingly-named US Supreme Court case in history, Loving v. Virginia, the decision that overthrew laws legal bans against marriages across the color line, it has now been appropriated by the folks behind Loving Day, an annual holiday on or around June 12th celebrating all things interracial.

I missed this weekend’s festivities here in New York City, but I did get a kick out of their inter-active map of state anti-miscegenation laws throughout the centuries (notice the retroactive imposition of the red state/blue state divide). I also was intrigued by the little post-script on actually scrubbing the law books of the offensive legislation post-Loving, a symbolic process that continued up until quite recently.

This last bit of dead-horse-flogging, however, raises a larger question about Loving Day. Why bother? Elevating an ingenious legal strategy (finding a plaintiff named Loving) into an annual rhetorical occasion, and a half century later to boot, seems a very tepid means to “fight racial prejudice” and build “multicultural community” as the website proclaims.

As cultural politics, “celebrating Loving” substitutes the vague for the precise, and the amorphous for the achievable (indeed, for the achieved). Marriages across the color line are indeed now legal, and have been, in all states, for over half a century. Don’t we have other civil rights issues to take on today?

Advertisements