Seemingly unfathomable, just 50 years ago it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry in 16 states because of “anti-miscegenation” laws. But the Supreme Court redirected history when it struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, on June 12, 1967, in Loving v. Virginia.
Mildred and Richard Loving, however, were not the only courageous interracial couple to make headlines that year. Just a few months after the Loving decision, Time magazine featured on its cover, the California wedding of Peggy Rusk, the daughter of then Secretary of State Dean Rusk, to Guy Smith, an African-American man. Any high-profile wedding comes with a fair amount of attention, but the stares the Smiths endured after their widely publicized nuptials were indicative of a larger issue beyond harmless curiosity.
Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage nationwide. Mildred & Richard Loving got married in DC. #LovingDay pic.twitter.com/WtRNyLVS1m
— Council of DC (@councilofdc) June 12, 2017
“One of my biggest goals throughout our marriage was to do what I could to help prevent lose-lose situations for Guy,” Smith said in an email to NBCBLK. She made the conscious decision to not look people in the eye when they stared at her or her husband to avoid, “confrontations where his choice was to be humiliated and back away or stand his ground and risk a fight.”
Fortunately, views on interracial marriage have evolved since Smith’s marriage in 1967 when, according to the Pew Research Center, only 3 percent of newlyweds were interracial. As of 2015, 17 percent of newly married couples in the U.S. have a spouse of another race. But it’s the details behind the data that crystallize where America really stands on the issue.
“The big reason behind the rise of 17 percent has to do with an increase in Hispanic and Asian interracial marriage,” said Kimberly DaCosta, a sociologist and professor at New York University. “Blacks and whites marry least among those who intermarry. And we have to ask ourselves why that is and what does it mean.” It’s certainly a fact that since slavery, negative views of blacks have been passed down through generations and continue to permeate segments of society.