Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case which ended race-based restrictions on marriage, was decided in 1967 -- almost 42 years ago. How is it then, that in 2009, a Louisiana judge was either so ignorant of the law or so arrogant about his power to supersede it, that he denied an interracial couple a marriage license? I was shocked!
I guess on some level, I wanted to believe that this type of thing didn't happen anymore. With the election of a biracial president, I wanted to believe that America had handled its race problem, although I knew in my heart and spirit that this was simply not the case.
I also found my thoughts turning to the untold number of other young couples this judge undoubtedly turned away. I am confident that this was not an isolated incident, it seems apparent that refusing to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples was his practice and long-standing policy.
Now, he said that he was motivated out of concern for the couple's future children, citing the lack of acceptance they experience in society. My first response was all of the biracial individuals who don't seem to have "suffered" at all, but have prospered instead. I think about Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, and countless other successful individuals.
But if I am completely honest, the more I started to think about his genuine, but misguided intentions, I wondered if there was a grain of truth in the judge's concerns. Let me be clear, I completely disagree with the judge's actions. However, I have seen and heard countless heartbreaking stories from biracial individuals about the stress and pressure they faced growing up.
Stay tuned for more about the challenges of biracial identity in part two of this story.
Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is the president and founder of Salter McNeil & Associates. She is a renowned speaker and leader in the field of racial, ethnic, and gender reconciliation, and author of A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race. This article appears courtesy of a partnership with Salter McNeil & Associates.