Why did Mildred Jeter Loving take the risky stand that she did, fighting the Commonwealth of Virginia’s law that said it was illegal for her, as an African-American woman, to marry the white man that she loved?
The answer to that question comes near the top of Patricia Sullivan’s A1 story in the Washington Post:
The Loving v. Virginia decision overturned long-standing legal and social prohibitions against miscegenation in the United States. Celebrated at the time, the landmark case sunk to obscurity until a 1996 made-for-television movie and a 2004 book revived interest in how the young, small-town black and white couple changed history.
A modest homemaker, Loving never thought she had done anything extraordinary. “It wasn’t my doing,” Loving told the Associated Press in a rare interview a year ago. “It was God’s work.”
That’s a nice religion hook — a ghost in clear sight.
What about the people who fought her, the people who backed the law against interracial marriages? Why did they do what they did? That’s in the story, too.
… Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Leon M. Bazile sentenced them to a year’s imprisonment, to be suspended if they left the state for the next 25 years.
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix,” Bazile ruled.
OK, that’s smoke from the pit of hell. But there’s another strong religion angle hiding in clear sight, one that certainly deserves examination.
And then there is the person herself, the quiet woman who never considered herself a brave pioneer of any kind.
Others did. Loving’s church, St. Stephens Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Va., gave her a certificate recognizing the trailblazing lawsuit.
“The preacher at my church classified me with Rosa Parks,” she told The Washington Post in 1992. “I don’t feel like that. Not at all. What happened, we really didn’t intend for it to happen. What we wanted, we wanted to come home.”
That’s a lot of religion in one story and the Post deserves credit for getting that information on the record. I mean, compare this with the almost totally faith-free report over at the Los Angeles Times. No contest.
And yet. And yet. I know that this fine story couldn’t be longer in this day and age. But I wanted to see the religious dots connected, I wanted to know as much about the content of her faith as we were told (what a quote from that court document) about the religious claims of the racists who were oppressing her. Yes, I wanted — to put this in Southern terms — for her to be able to “testify.” I wanted to hear from her pastor and the people in those pews.
The story was haunted, because it was about a haunting subject in a haunted nation. I wanted to see the ghosts pulled out into the light.
Meanwhile, here is a Bible verse for the day:
Galatians 3:28 …
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”