A month or so ago, I finally watched the movie Loving–even though it was released last November. In case you don’t know about this film, you can view a trailer for it here. We received free movie tickets as gifts over the past year, and I wanted to use those to go see this movie. But we ended up finding it on Vudu or something (you’d have to ask Mike if you want to know for sure.) So the free tickets are saved for another day.
As a woman in an interracial marriage, I feel a kind of kinship to the couple in this story. I’ve never feared that Mike or I risked going to jail for marrying each other. But had we lived (and married one another) 50 or 60 years ago, we would certainly have faced push back, maybe even persecution. And because, even generations later, there are still challenges involved in interracial marriage.
I watched the previews for Loving 3 times before watching the entire movie, and I cried at it exactly 3 times: at the sadness of this practice of White supremacy, outlawing marriage between Black people and White people because miscegenation was such a hated concept. At the frustration of how courts (and sometimes churches) redefined marriage as being a union that could occur between men and women as long as they were of the same race. (Well, actually, the White supremacists didn’t seem to mind if Black folks married Asian folks–for example–but they didn’t want White people marrying outside their race.)
My great-great grandmother, a Choctaw Native American living in Mississippi, married a White man (my great-great grandfather) over a hundred years ago. She entered into marriage with a man of a different culture and ethnicity. I think about her sometimes and wonder how she folded herself into a family and culture so different from her own. I feel a kinship with her because I too married a man unlike myself in some ways; I too birthed children who look different from myself. She must have been brave, I’m sure.
My Papa, who died on Valentine’s Day this year, was one-quarter Choctaw. When we were little, our grandfather would point to a dark birth mark on his arm and tell us, “That’s all the Indian I have left in me.” In myself, I have only one-sixteenth.
I’ve been asked several times if my half-Korean sons were adopted. “Are your boys biological, or did y’all adopt them?” a mom at our home school co-op asked years ago. “Where did y’all get your boys?” a man asked me at our church one Sunday. Once, a college student at an apartment complex asked me, “What are they?” I didn’t quite know how to answer that until he said, “So, are they Thai? Or what?” In all fairness, he seemed a bit tipsy, and he told me that he was also half-Asian.
We sold a chair on Craigslist once to a young Asian- (I think Vietnamese) American woman who brought her mother with her to our house to pick it up. I could see the mother, who wasn’t speaking English, gesturing to my sons and then to me as she asked her daughter questions.
I could guess what she wanted to know. To all these questions, I simply respond, “My husband’s Korean.” And that takes care of it. Truthfully, these questions don’t bother me; most of the time I think they’re funny. Although when I was pregnant for the first time, I did mourn a tiny bit that people might not be able to recognize that my child was mine–even though I would grow him inside of me. Now, I am so grateful that my children’s appearances reveal their Korean heritage.
When they were each very little–just learning to talk–both my sons asked me, “Why you white, Oh mah?” They also wanted to know why my eyes were green (I’d grown up thinking they were blue; now they look watery gray-green to me). They would say, “Why you have green eyes?” My typical answer to these questions was simply, “That’s how God made me.”
They also wanted to know why I had a black dot in the center of my eyes. Their eyes are so dark that their pupils are often difficult to distinguish from their irises. Woodrow and Garfield didn’t notice a black spot in their own eyes and were confused as to why I had these spots in my eyes.
Just the other day, Garfield pointed to the underside of my upper arm and declared that the skin there was “ridiculously white.” My response was something along the lines of–what did you expect, honey?
One morning when they were very little, I took the boys on a bike ride while I walked beside them. Across the street from us, an African-American boy was riding his bike to school. Garfield pointed him out to me and stated, “He brown, Oh mah; he brown. That mean he Korean.” Well… We’ve grown in our understanding of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds over the years.
Not only have my children grown, but *I* have grown, too. Marrying someone of a different cultural and ethnic heritage has helped reveal to me how much I went through the world not really aware of my White-ness. How much I didn’t recognize the struggles of people with skin a different color than mine. I’ve been humbled in this cross-cultural marriage of ours, realizing just how ignorant I am in many ways, especially as I’ve come to understand how much my husband has had to learn to adapt to the majority culture in our country.
I take notice of the world around me and realize that it’s looking more and more like my children look, and I wonder about the spouses God will give my boys. Will their children be even more multi-ethnic than they are? Will my grandchildren have more African heritage than Asian?
When I think about the words in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describing the great multitude surrounding God’s throne–from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation–I am almost overcome with weeping. I can hardly wait for that day, to meet all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some will look like me; others, like my husband. Many will look like nobody (currently) in my earthly family. And some will certainly share the coloring and features of my great-great-grandmother.