June 12th was Loving Day & Here’s What You Need to Know

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On June 12th, people across the United States celebrated Loving Day — an unofficially recognized holiday that commemorates the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Given how monumental the decision was, it’s embarrassing to admit that as Canadian my first exposure to Loving v. Virginia was through the  Oscar nominated film Loving, which stars (the amazing) Ruth Negga and Joel Edgarton as the very aptly named Mildred and Richard Loving, the plaintiffs in the landmark case.

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In 1959, Mildred a woman of color, and Richard, a white man,  settled in Virginia after getting married in the District of Columbia. One night, their bedroom was invaded by a group of police officers who’d broken into their home in the hope of catching them having sex, a crime under Virginia law (they were sound asleep). The couple was then sentenced to a year in prison for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited interracial marriage — a punishment they traded for a one-way ticket out of Virginia. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that the law was unconstitutional. The date was June 12th, 1967.

As a Canadian, reading about Mildred and Richard Loving, was humbling. Let’s be real: Canada has a less than stellar track record when it comes to race relations, but interracial marriage has never been blatantly illegal.

(Sidebar:  if you’re curious about the history of racism in Canada I strongly encourage listening to CBC’s Missing and Murdered podcast – it’s amazing – or reading this piece for a primer.)

I feel incredibly privileged to live in a time and places where interracial dating is not only legal, it’s actually pretty common. A few years ago, Vancouver was dubbed “the capital of interracial dating” because it has more couples in mixed unions per capita than any other Canadian city, with Toronto in second place. In other words, I’ve pretty much spent my adult life living in a bubble of sorts, free to date and love whoever I want.

(Another sidebar: If you want to get a feel for interracial dating climate in Canada circa 1957, I suggest you watch the short film, Crossroads. It’s cringe worthy in the way only educational films about dating from the 1950’s can be, but also quite progressive in the context of what was happening in the United States at the time.)

This brings me back to Loving Day, which was established in 2014 as a way to commemorate the Loving v. Virginia decision and celebrate multiculturalism.

While June 12th is already in the rear view mirror for another year (seriously, where has June gone?),  Loving Day.org has a bunch of helpful info about the day and how to celebrate, including a list of Loving Day celebrations. Don’t see your city or town represented? Plan your own celebration.

If you’ve got little ones, there’s also a children’s book, The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage that’s really, really, wonderful and has gorgeous illustrations.

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I know this isn’t your usual Skinny Dip post, but at a time when children are literally being ripped from their parent’s arms and police violence against people of color continues, it’s important we educate ourselves and resist — and that resistance includes celebrating loud & proud the freedom to love whoever we want.

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