This time of year always makes me really reflective. I don’t know if it’s the holidays or just the first time we get to catch our breath after the busy start to Fall, but November in particular has become a Pondering Month for me. This November, like this whole year, there’s been a lot to consider. First, we had the twists and turns of the election, which sent me and many others reeling afterwards. Second, I turned 30, which feels like an especially big milestone when coupled with the fact that my wife and I just announced the arrival of our first child in April. And to top it off, the Loving movie just came out, with widespread release this week. These three moments, the election, my personal life changes, and the Loving movie feel very interconnected in my mind, and I hope my thoughts here have relevance to the entire MRN family.
Back in June, MRN celebrated the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia (1967) court case, which invalidated the laws prohibiting interracial marriage. We held a Twitter chat, of which I’ve shared some screenshots here. You can see these are issues and discussions with a wide range of impacts that we still feel today, even if to our more modern thinking an interracial marriage does not seem uncommon at all.
I’ve included a few screenshots of our Twitter chat. It took place the day after the Orlando Nightclub shootings, another heavy time of year when oppression felt very real and dangerous, something we sometimes forget just living our lives out. You can find the full story here: https://storify.com/ACPA_MRN/mrn-loving-day-chat-mrnlove
The Loving case feels especially relevant to me today as I think that when my parents were children, they wouldn’t have been allowed to marry. I wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for this case. My Latino mother could not have married my White father some 30+ years ago and me, a multiracial individual talking about race on a Multiracial blog, couldn’t have been possible. When I put it in terms of my lifetime, or my parents’ lifetimes, that court decision doesn’t seem that long ago.
This last tweet, in particular, caught my eye. As I look to the future, my own child is coming into a world where multiraciality will be even more common, though that doesn’t mean easier. My wife identifies as Korean American and our child will be Korean, Latino and Caucasian. I hope my own pride at my multiraciality, a way of identifying myself that I did not use until introduced to the concept in college, will help him grapple with the question of race much earlier than I did. I also hope to continue to instill the values of three different cultures in a blend of positivity, honoring those who went before us while acknowledging that he is going to look at the world through different eyes then we, his parents, or his grandparents. It’s funny, because I feel “ready” to raise a multiracial child, but not a Korean child. My wife feels ready to raise a Korean child, but does not fully grasp the challenges of multiraciality.
Sounds like we just acknowledged one of the many struggles of parenting we’re about to face together.
One comfort was the baby party we threw, where both sides of our family came together for the first time since our wedding. It was a reminder that we are not alone in raising this child with all the values of all his backgrounds. Multiracial isn’t just our “exotic” complexion, it’s both our families’ way of life now.
All this talk about the past and the future brings me back to the present, at a time when we feel a lot of uncertainty about the new regime in our federal government. And with that uncertainty, there comes fear. Fear that feels much more informed and tangible than in any election I can remember. And as we look around, I think it’s important to remember that we’ve never really had to stop fighting for something. In 1967, it was fighting for something as basic as interracial marriage. Today, it’s not like racism, homophobia, sexism, islamophobia and the litany of others has gone away. If you look at the Loving story, the Supreme Court Case was the last step. The grassroots movements, the culture shifts and earlier court battles were key to getting to the end of the story. And perhaps one day my son will have his own reflection on how the rights of any of the number of his identities were won and fought for during his parents’ lifetime.
As a final note, if you haven’t already, go check out the Loving movie. What an easy way to reimmerse ourselves in the history, the struggle, and reconnect with the individuals that often get lost in the story of the movement. We’ve gotten to work closely with Focus Films already, and we really believe in the cause of the movie and appreciated unpacking the stories behind it. I hope you have that opportunity too.
May we keep doing the work together, learning from the past to make ours and our children’s lives better. Happy belated Thanksgiving and may these winter holidays be a time of reflection, hope, and togetherness for you, our MRN family.
-James Engler, MRN Past Chair with support from Rachel Luna, MRN Past Chair