In 1967 the landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage in all states. And nearly 50 years later, Richard and Mildred Loving’s brave story is portrayed in the film Loving, in theaters now.
At this time in our nation’s history, however, race relations appear to be regressing, and since the conclusion of the presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported an increase in hate crimes.
“Given the raw emotions and social conflicts that have been fueled by the campaign and the election of the president-elect, many believe they are free to express their angry feelings with no filter,” says psychologist Jeff Gardere. “So I believe some interracial couples, or anyone who does not fit the conservative narrative or physical presentation, may be at risk for verbal or even physical attack.”
The Root asked several interracial couples for their thoughts on the troubling signs of the times. Have they been affected? Or can love truly conquer all? (Editor’s note: The couples asked that only first names be used to maintain privacy.)
Robin and Scott live in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and have been married for nearly five years. It is the second marriage for both. She is black and had a culturally inclusive upbringing in Baltimore. He is white, Republican and grew up in rural Pennsylvania with little exposure to African Americans. But their differences weren’t problematic—until, that is, President Barack Obama’s second term.
“He believes Barack is the worst president in our history and constantly posted on Facebook about it,” Robin recalls. “This made me very angry. The arguments continued, and it was downhill from there.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Scott supported Donald Trump and all that he stood for. The couple’s arguments became so explosive that Robin unfollowed her husband on social media and slept in a second bedroom. “I was not 100 percent sure we could come back from it,” she says.
“The hardest part is feeling my husband does not have my back. He says I’m the most racially sensitive person he has ever met,” Robin says. “There are times when I wonder how I married someone who thinks like this. I am sure he wonders the same.”
Lynn and Edward, however, are on the same page politically.
“The morning President Obama won the presidency in 2008, both my husband and I stood by a small TV in our room and cried. We saw the racial divide in the nation coming to an end,” says Lynn, an African-American veteran.
“[But] Trump’s win and his connection with a self-proclaimed supremacist has disappointed us—it has hurt us and made us fear that the nation is going in the opposite direction,” Lynn says.
Eleven years after meeting on a blind date, the military couple is still going strong. They live in Hawaii but take great pride in having a Virginia marriage license—something Mildred and Richard Loving were denied.
“Racial discussions can be tense. But I don’t believe they will negatively impact [our] relationship,” Lynn says. “We believe that higher levels of functioning and love—Christian love—transcends color and cultural experiences. We are comfortable that we have that type of love.”
Psychologist Gardere agrees that political differences can’t derail a solid matrimony. “When there is a low point in a marriage based on what is happening either within or outside of the home, this is the time to circle the tents and work harder to get to a better, stronger and higher place,” Gardere says.
Nestled in “a diverse little bubble” in Brooklyn, N.Y., and supported by a community of other mixed-race couples, Anthony and Crystal have admittedly been sheltered from overt racism aside from a few stares.
“Now we are having conversations that we haven't had before, such as what do we do if someone approaches us and says something racist to us or our children?” says Anthony, an African-American entrepreneur.
The couple of 11 years have three sons, ages 7, 5 and 1. They have considered moving to the suburbs for more space but worry about their children’s safety and acceptance in a more homogeneous environment.
“The morning after the election, our 7-year-old asked us if Trump likes his baby brother more than him, because he has lighter skin. He's very conscious that the leader of America may not like him as much as a kid who is completely white. I worry about what that will do to his psyche,” says Anthony.
For Brian and Dali, a same-sex interracial couple in Brooklyn, the rise of Trump has raised some concerns.
“A few days after the election [Dali] said, ‘I’m a gay immigrant, married to a black man. What’s gonna happen to me?’ It’s a psychological minefield,” says Brian, a broadcast journalist.
But the couple, married for 19 months, have shaken off the postelection anxiety and are back to business as usual.
“All the things that existed before the election are still there, even if people feel emboldened to express them more aggressively now,” Brian, a Chicago native, says.
“We’re pretty damn bold, too,” he adds. “So yeah, we hold hands and kiss necks and support the things we believe in.”
They refuse to let the haters win.
“At a time when I thought we would be pressing forward to expand the conversation and include more voices of those who were left out of the fight to be recognized, let alone married, the reset button was pressed,” says Brian.
“Now it feels like we have to fight harder just to hold ground,” he continues. “That sucks, but we got this.”