It is a rare occasion for Marc Johnston, MRN Chair, and Heather Lou, MRN Incoming Chair, to find themselves in the same city outside of the annual ACPA Convention. So what do these two fun-loving higher education and student affairs administrators choose to do when they are reunited in the City of Angels? They attend the amazing HBO Screening of Nancy Buirski’s The Loving Story (2011) at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, of course!
On a recent evening in LA, Marc and Heather settled into their seats to view the story of Richard and Mildred Loving – an interracial couple arrested and exiled from Virginia in 1958 for violating anti-miscegenation laws. The documentary captured footage of the couple’s relationship, family, challenges, and triumphs – including the monumental 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the 15 states that still had them, legalizing interracial marriage across all of the United States.
After viewing The Loving Story, Marc and Heather wanted to share their personal thoughts on the documentary, along with potential implications for higher education.
What are some strengths of the film?
- Heather: I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film, but was pleasantly surprised to learn more about Richard and Mildred Loving’s relationship. The Loving Story captured the love of the Loving family, their community, and the incredible group of people dedicated to seeking social justice and marriage equality. By incorporating footage and sound bites of the Lovings into this documentary, Buirski was able to personify Richard, Mildred, and other key players to shed light on the effects of segregation, discrimination, and injustice of miscegenation in the United States.
- Marc: I found the strengths of the film to center on its ability to tell their story. As someone who often cites the Loving v. Virginia decision in my work on multiracial issues, I’ve felt that the case has often been detached from the couple. The documentary was able to weave in actual footage of the couple, providing voice to Lovings, who so often seem to just be represented through the Loving case or through sound-bites removed from the larger context framing the couple’s struggle. In addition, I think a strength of the documentary was that it didn’t try to be more than it was – their story really took center stage.
What are some implications for higher education?
- Heather: In my opinion, this documentary can be used to humanize the Loving v. Virginia case. As a person that learned about the Loving story in classes, there was hardly any discussion about the intricate details that led up to the monumental Supreme Court case. Although the documentary doesn’t delve deeply into Multiracial identity issues, as well as the critical race component of anti-miscegenation laws, The Loving Story can be a useful tool for student affairs administrators to discuss the psychological and social affect of racism, attitudes about interracial relationships, and Multiracial identity with students and peers. I would have liked to hear more from other members of the Loving family and a continued conversation about the ways that issues brought forth in The Loving Story connect to United States race relations in 2012.
- Marc: I feel that this documentary could be a powerful resource for use in diversity and social justice trainings, since it offers multiple entry points (e.g., love, law, legacy, etc.) for engaging both those who are new to the topics and those who may feel more knowledgeable (as my own case would indicate that there’s always more to learn!). However, I would have liked to see a bit more of the history that led to the context surrounding the Lovings’ story and struggle (e.g., Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act). Overall, the film could be a great starting point for discussions on the current status of interracial relationships, the experiences of the mixed race offspring of interracial marriages (since we saw how the supposed “mongrel” children of such interracial marriages were a key argument against integration), and current struggles for marriage equality (for instance, a co-sponsor of this particular screening was the American Foundation for Equal Rights).
What are lingering questions you have about The Loving Story?
- Heather: (1) How can The Loving Story connect to current marriage equality issues? (2) How did other interracial couples react to the Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967? I’d be interested to learn more about other couples’ “Loving Story” and Multiracial children’s perspectives of this moment in history.
- Marc: (1) How can we best use the The Loving Story as a catalyst for social justice without exploiting the couple or their love? (2) How can we be more critical about the common use of the Loving v. Virginia case as the critical point for interracial marriage (and often multiracial identity) when we know that “the increase in intermarriage rates was a longer-term trend” (Spickard, 1991, p. 444)?
The Loving Story premieres February 14 on HBO during its celebration of Black History Month. For more information about the film, go to: http://lovingfilm.com/
For additional information on the topic, we recommend:
- Peggy Pascoe’s 2009 book, What comes naturally: miscegenation law and the making of race in America
- Our friends over at Loving Day have great resources, including an interactive map demonstrating the yearly changes in anti-miscegenation laws leading up to the Loving decision.
- And as always, Steven Riley’s mixedracestudies.org offers an abundance of resources.