Loving Day

Loving Day

I wrote this post a year ago and shared it on my personal Facebook. As I reread this emotional time capsule, I realized that I still feel exactly the same. The issues I wrote about a year ago are still just as prevalent now, if not more so. Because unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in a year’s time. So I decided to reshare my old thoughts with some present day updates.

Loving v. Virginia. In 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Black and Native American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia. Richard and Mildred could not be married in their home state of Virginia because the state wouldn’t recognize their marriage. The couple traveled up North, to DC where their marriage could be legalized. The newlyweds returned to Virginia shortly afterward, but were charged with violating the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Loving’s were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail. Or they could leave their home in Virginia so long as they would not return together for twenty-five years. If they agreed to these terms, the judge would suspend their sentencing.

Mildred and Richard Loving decided that leaving their family in Virginia was a better alternative to serving jail time. I don’t blame them. But leaving the only home she ever knew and not being allowed to visit her family was not an alternative that sat well with Mildred. She reached out to a lawyer in hopes of being able to appeal their sentencing. And after nine years of waiting, the Loving’s case reached the Supreme Court.

June 12, 1967. The Supreme Court came to a unanimous agreement that outlawing interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The court stated:

“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

In 1967, there were 16 southern states with effective laws outlawing interracial marriage. Even after the Supreme Court ruling, several states made no changes to their constitution’s laws. South Carolina did not correct their state constitution until 1998, 30 years after the ruling. Finally, in 2000, Alabama was the last state to alter their constitution in regards to interracial marriage.

June 12, 2018. Today is the 51stanniversary of the declaration made by the Supreme Court pronouncing all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional. Fifty-one years. No, scratch that. Eighteen years. Meaning, that in the duration of my life, only eighteen of those years it has been legal in every state for me to marry Kendrae. While laws have changed, some of society’s viewpoints have not. Eighteen years later, and interracial couples are still plagued with shame, opposition and hatred.

In my four years together with Kendrae, we have certainly faced all three of these obstacles. Obstacles based solely on our outward appearances. We have been out in public and been treated notably different; we have heard from both ends of the spectrum some of the nastiest words and phrases that one can utter; we have faced rejection from family members and from total strangers; and received the full range of looks and insensitive comments. Fifty-one years later, in the year 2018, an interracial couple is still faced with the same recurring stigmas. We’re plastered with labels declaring our love to be less than and impure because we have two different skin tones. Our characters are attacked and we’re painted in unflattering light based on a difference in skin color. It is absurd and a concept I will never fully grasp, but it will not alter my view of myself, my partner, or our love.

All of these experiences have helped our relationship more than they’ve hurt. Sure, the words sting, being made to feel as inferior is certainly not pleasant, but we have made the choice to be even more intentional with our interactions with those around us. By Kendrae and I being kind to one another and maintaining a positive relationship in public and behind closed doors it helps to combat these contorted mentalities. In the past year alone we have seen racism flare its foul head with even more frequency and intensity.

Each day, now more than ever, we consciously choose to fight for true equality. We share the same dream. I am not so proud to think I could more eloquently convey a message that has rung true since the moment Martin Luther King Jr uttered it into existence on August 28, 1963; that we will one day live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Today and every day we fight to break the stigmas swirling around us by doing what comes so naturally: loving each other.

No. 6 – Meeting the Carters

No. 6 – Meeting the Carters

The darkness of the sky was all encompassing as we cruised down the unlit highway. Old R&B jams sauntered through the speakers filling the cabin air of Kendrae’s Chevy Silverado. As smooth and cool as the air being pumped through his vents in attempt to combat the thick, summer heat.

His large, calloused hand interlocked with mine making me feel so small. A feeling that was foreign to a 5’11” girl like me. The warmth in his touch made my entire body tingle. Even though it had only been two weeks since we’d last seen each other, holding hands made me realize how much I truly missed him. I leaned into the side of the seat and fixed my gaze on Kendrae. This.This was what I had been waiting and praying for. All the dates I never went on. The dates I was never asked on. The nights spent alone rather than seeking solace in another for the sake of company. All the heartbreak and longing seemed like another lifetime in comparison to this.

I didn’t care if we ever made it to his parents’ house. I was relishing the moment to sit and enjoy being in Kendrae’s company. Words were unnecessary. I had never been so comfortable and so at home in my own skin. I took a deep breath and breathed in the scent of his intoxicating cologne. I could get used to this.This feeling. This man. This woman I became when I was around him.

My thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from Kendrae’s mom, checking on our drive. We were expecting to arrive in Crosby, a smaller town northeast of Houston, sometime around 1:00 AM. His mom expressed that she was excited to see us, but would be in bed by the time we got in. I was a little relieved that I would be able to get my bearings and make sure that I looked parent-presentable before meeting his family. Who really looks their best after a three-and-a-half-hour car ride at 1:00 in the morning?

The next morning at 6:00, not my best time of day either, I was awoken by a knock at the bedroom door. Kendrae was adamant that we get a good run in before making the rounds of introduction. I rolled out of bed, threw on some raggy running attire and barely managed to brush my teeth, let alone do anything to my wild hair and bare face. I walked down the stairs, still mostly asleep, and was startled to find Kendrae’s mom waiting to greet me.

“Hi honey!” she cooed, her voice as sweet as honey. She wrapped me in a hug and assured me how glad she was to meet me.

I’m not even sure what I managed to stammer out because I was so caught off guard by our greeting. This was NOT my best representation of myself and certainly NOT how I wanted to look the first time I met my boyfriend’s mom. Our casualties were interrupted by Kendrae’s entrance from the garage into the kitchen. He smiled at us both and announced that he was ready to go, and off he and I went.

The muggy Houston air filled my lungs and made my face even more red than it felt from my brief encounter with Kendrae’s mom. I mentally kicked myself the whole two miles until I realized that I would most likely look even worse post-run. What a winner he brought home with him…!

Later that afternoon after I had meticulously fixed myself up, I reemerged downstairs, ready to meet anyone. I quickly fell in love with his Dad. He was a quiet, reserved man who liked what he liked. I knew Kendrae admired him and they had a close relationship. I could sense that he had a somewhat rough exterior, but all I could see was his heart of gold. Kendrae told me that his Dad enjoyed cars and cowboy boots, so I worked those topics. Before I knew it, he had pulled out every pair of cowboy boots from his collection, and had them displayed in the living room for me. I knew right there, that we would get along just fine.

I was a little more self-conscious around his mom because I knew Kendrae thought the world of her. Not to mention my less than perfect, first impression. But, she was the most welcoming, down-to-earth individual I had ever met. She made you feel like you were the only person in the room when she talked to you. And she beamed sunlight.

Kendrae’s younger sister was so similar to him in many ways. She was easy going, full of laughter and possessed an upbeat attitude. Kendrae’s older brother was kind and equally laid back. He was witty and possessed the same welcoming qualities as his mother. I loved watching Kendrae’s interactions with his siblings; their love for one another so apparent.

I was surprised how effortlessly I fell into stride with his family. Similar to the way I felt instantly at home around Kendrae. It made sense. The rest of the weekend was smooth sailing. I really had hit the jackpot. Phenomenal guy. Phenomenal family.

Was this the stuff dreams were made of? Was it really possible life could work out so storybook-ending?Except, why had I never felt this sense of belonging with my family? And what about their less than loving feelings towards Kendrae? Would they come to love him as I did? Could they?

No. 3 – An April Weekend

No. 3 – An April Weekend

It was an April weekend in Texas. The grass was green, the flowers were beginning to bloom and just like Texas weather does best, the sun was shining. I was about a month away from my college graduation and had never felt more on top of the world and petrified at the same time. My options were wide open and I could choose to go whichever way my heart desired, couldn’t I?

Lately, my mind had been fixated on the concept of a wishbone. I felt as if the two of us had a lot in common, both being torn in two separate directions. Someone always won the wishbone tug-of-war, but what about the bone? It still ends up broken. I was concerned that my outcome might be similar. One side of me was being pulled by my family into becoming a teacher. It was what I had gone to school for and was the career path bestowed upon me. And the other side of me was being pulled in an unknown direction. Was there a way, through all the pulling, for Sarah to remain intact?

We had a weekend off with no tennis matches, so I took the opportunity to spend a weekend away from Longview. My weekend home consisted of my typical back-from-college weekend escapades. Spending time with my parents and siblings, loving on my dogs and just hanging around the house mostly. But with all these monumental life decisions looming over my head and future, I had a difficult time relaxing. Not to mention missing my hunk of a boyfriend terribly. Being around him always put me at ease; big decisions seemed much smaller and less scary when I was around Kendrae.

I could tell I wasn’t quite as talkative, but I had too much going on in my head to care. As mothers tend do, my mom picked up on my lackluster spirit during my visit home. We started talking about school and how my classes were finishing up. Then the conversation turned to Kendrae. As usual, I morphed into an eyelash batting, day-dreaming school girl talking about her perfect crush. And after babbling on for what was probably ten minutes, my mother’s response caught me off guard.

She said that her and my father had both been praying a lot about who I was going to marry. In fact, they had for some time. She went on to tell me that she was having some difficulty imagining me marrying Kendrae. And the next few sentences that spewed out of her mouth, will forever leave a bad taste in mine.

My mother said she couldn’t understand how Kendrae was “the best guy” God had picked for me. And how it was hard for her to believe that there was no “white guy” good enough. So, God had chosen someone deserving of me, but Kendrae was it?  “God wants you to be with him over all the other white guys?” she said so prosaically, “I could see if he was going to be a doctor or a professional athlete, but he’s just going to be a teacher.”

Her words rang in the air and made it hard for me to swallow. Time stood at a standstill and my heart dropped into my stomach.

What? Were we speaking the same language? Because what was coming out of her mouth seemed foreign; I couldn’t understand it.

I blinked and let out my breath simultaneously. I looked my mother in the face and didn’t recognize who I saw. I opened my mouth to speak, but my response was stuck in the back of my throat. What could I say? I was rendered speechless.

Later that night, I was sitting on my bed with my knees tight against my chest. I hadn’t been able to think of much else since my one-sided conversation with my mother from earlier. My mind continued to reel with all the things I might have said rather than nothing at all. Why was it that I could never find the words to speak my peace?

After what seemed like an eternity of allowing my thoughts to run wild, I steeled myself and acknowledged the question I had been trying to avoid. It was beginning to seem as if I had not known my family as well as I thought. If my relationship with Kendrae continued to grow more serious, how would things work with my family? I wouldn’t have to choose between having a relationship with my family and continuing my relationship with Kendrae…right?

No. 2 – The Long Road Home

No. 2 – The Long Road Home

A most anticipated weekend. I had been watching this scene in my head since I was little. My personal favorite. Only, the leading role playing opposite to me was never cast. Sure, in my imaginative screen play, there was a stand in, but I had yet to find the real deal. Let me set up the scene. Girl goes to college. Meets boy. They fall in love. She brings him home to meet her family. They all get along and live happily ever after. Of course, in my director’s cut there are much more elaborate scenes, but you get the picture.

Truth is, I would have been reaching with this outline if I was the one whom had gotten along well with my family. That would have been a fairy tale ending all on its own. Maybe I was hopeful that once I had met this wonderful person, he would help catapult me to reach my parent’s high expectations. Maybe I enjoyed living in the scene I concocted in my head. Maybe, deep down, I knew my fantasy bubble was reaching the end of its shelf life, and I chose to savor it for as long as I could. Or maybe I was just so ridiculously happy with my new boyfriend that I truly was living in my own fantasy.

It was March, and Kendrae and I had been officially dating for about three weeks when he asked if he could come home with me to meet my parents. Swoon. As if I needed another reason to be crazy about this man. I called my parents and made the arrangements. The plan was that Kendrae would follow me back to my parent’s house, stay for two nights, then drive back to Longview while I finished the remainder of Spring Break at home.

Besides Kendrae getting a flat tire somewhere between Longview and my parent’s driveway, the meet up went wonderfully. Kendrae made a great impression, because who couldn’t be impressed by him? The time felt too short as our brief two days came to a summary. We said our goodbyes as he made the journey back to Longview while I remained in Van Alstyne for the last few days of my break. How had my life suddenly gotten so good?

Later that night I was up in my room still floating around somewhere in outer space. My mother came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed.

“I just got off the phone with your grandmother,” she said, “and she asked me ‘how serious is this?’”

I blinked and was caught off guard by the odd question. I responded that we had just started dating, three weeks or so at this point, but that we both really liked each other.

“Sarah, is this something we need to be worried about?” she questioned further.

Again, I was surprised by the context of her question. Worried, I thought. Worried about what? Were they worried that I had a boyfriend? Or did their concern lie elsewhere?

“I’m confused,” I responded, “what is there to be worried about?”

“Interracial couples have a difficult road ahead of them, Sarah. Life is just harder,” my mother explained.

A beat. The silence between us rang loudly in my ears. My face must have been red, because I could feel the heat radiating off my skin.

“So, just because interracial couples may face some problems, means it’s not worth it? Every couple has problems,” I protested.

My mother responded that “of course, every couple faces problems, but we are talking about completely different problems here. Do you know what it’s like to grow up as an interracial child, Sarah? Do you know how hard…”

Was she serious? I couldn’t listen to this racist remark masquerading as a legitimate concern.  I interrupted her mid-sentence.

“Mom, do YOU know what it’s like to grow up as an interracial child? No. And neither do I. What I do know, is that I’m finished having this conversation with you. We’ve been dating for three weeks, and you’re already worried about our interracial children.”

She said a few words about how she cared for me and just wanted what was best for me, but I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t. My own thoughts were swirling around so loudly. Was this my own mother? How could the woman who’d taught me that character came before anything else be the same person pretending not to have an issue with my boyfriend being black?

The bedroom door closed as my mother left my room, jolting me back from the cacophony that was my thoughts. I was still too enraged to cross the threshold of the fact that I had just nearly yelled at my mother while interrupting her mid-sentence. All I could do was I stare at the door and wonder how my perfect weekend had quickly turned into a nagging question mark. Did my parents like Kendrae, but were worried about us having a difficult road ahead? Or were they too fixated on one characteristic that the rest of him never stood a chance?