Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism
June 12 is the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down all laws against interracial marriage
June 12th, 2013
01:29 PM ET

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor's note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day'.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples - or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional.

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, their interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.” In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech approaches.

On  June 15, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children's spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Family • History • What we think
soundoff (250 Responses)
  1. Jorge

    I can't believe that this is still an issue in what's supposed to be "the most advanced country in the world" at the beginning of the 21st century, but here we are. What business is it of anyone's what adult affections occur within the privacy of the bedroom or the home? Who puts life into anyone's breast to tell them who they can and cannot love? When I was a teenager, I used to get angry at the fun made over my U.S. birthright whenever I visited my extended family overseas, but now I understand, sheeesh.

    June 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. WeepingWolf

    This is great because in my heart I believe the solutions to these problems is the acceptance of being biracial oneself. A perfect example is our president. He is not just black. Hes just as much white as he is black. Same with his reverend jeramiah white. He needs to accept hes just as much white as he is black. One thing id also like to happen is that black and biracial people accept the racism and bigotry that was perperuated on the irish people instead of clumping them in with the elite. Irish were also used as slaves in england and most people dont even know about this history.

    June 17, 2013 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
    • WeepingWolf

      Cherokee were also used as slaves in england. Most of them never made it home just like the innocent africans and irish.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. WeepingWolf

    Ive noticed more bad looks from black males that see a white man with a black woman than I do from a black woman that sees the same thing. Not that any of it matters because you cant stop 2 people from loving each other. But I see a lot more white men with black women nowadays. Good to see that. I am a native american european mixed man and my girl is also native american european mixed...but we look Iincredibly different. People proably think we different races, when we are not.

    June 17, 2013 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
    • BIG SHIZ

      There are way more black men with white women. And we catch way more dirty looks from white men. And btw just about all black people that have family that goes back to slave days are part native (like me).

      June 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WeepingWolf

    I would think the darker one is, the more micro evolved one is to the suns radiation. Which to me means the lighter you are, the older your gene pool is. Not that any of this matters, just an obvious observation. If lighter people are newer, that means humans are de-evolving backwards....and makes absolutly no sense at all. Europeans are also clovis and preclovis. They are not all the same at all. In fact if you look closely youll notice their variances in color eye color hair color and skin complexion out weigh my own people differences.

    June 17, 2013 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
    • BIG SHIZ

      The lighter you are the older you're gene pool is? We'll since its scientific fact that humans all come from Africa I would say you either stupid,ignorant or a bigot. Most likely all of the above.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eveningmoon4

    I'm actually going to need you guys to stop with the slavery apologist scheme. The slavery that happened in Africa is not the same chattel slavery (emphasis on chattel) that the Europeans participated in. When different African tribes would go to war, the losing team would have some of their people enslaved. However, the difference is that the winning African tribe one, allowed the losing people to keep their traditions, two, did not treat them like dirty pigs, and three, did not enforce their will onto them. The brutalities that occurred during the European Slave Trade does not compare to any "slavery" that people say to try to defend themselves and protect their conscious.
    Also, the slaves that were purchased from Africa account for such a small percentage. 99% of the slaves taken from Africa were forced out of their land by the Europeans. And another thing to consider: the african slaves that were purchased from Africans, the tribal leaders did it in order to protect their tribe. Because if you had to sacrifice 20 people to other people who had guns and better weapons than you in order to save 200 of your own people, wouldn't you do it? Or if you wouldn't do it, don't you find it reasonable or understandable to why they did it? These men were held at gunpoint. They did the best they could for their people.
    You cannot forget that slavery happened when its effects is still seen to this day. Hence the article. People always say they want to talk about slavery, but never take the initiative to do so. People just want to bury the fact that it ever happened and that is impossible.

    June 14, 2013 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Charles

    It is fairly recent history in the scheme of things.

    June 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pedo Bear

    Good fir your husband. I'm 35 years old. My future wife is currently taking her first steps in Thailand. I can't wait to meet her in 16 years.


    June 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. VVVVV

    As a near life long perp of being an interracial couple. This issue is not a concern but just the media making something out of nothing. There are billions of people on the planet and there will always be lots of different opinions.

    June 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • WeepingWolf

      I agree vvvv. I think the anger over interracial dating is mostly a male issue. And im not going to pretend its just white men that get angry at this. I see the same dirty looks from men of all races when they see a man of another race with a woman of their own race.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. KT

    I understand completely, my fiancee is Jamaican and I am white, there is also a large age difference between us. It isn't an issue when we are in Jamaica with anyone. All they see is a couple in love. In the US, it's quite a different story. But we know what we have together and it works. Goodluck and Peace

    June 13, 2013 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Oktober

      KT you are absolutely right if you're happy with the way your life is then it doesn't matter what other people say or think. I am with you on the location deal also, it does seem as though certain places you go people tend to be better or worse as far as how they act around you. I wish you and your fiancee a lifetime of happiness and peace.

      June 13, 2013 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Valerie

    Well said Oktober!!!!

    June 13, 2013 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. obamaSUX

    We are different cultures. Just like birds of a feather, flock together... we are not suppose to mix cultures. America will pay the ultimate price for this one day when race wars break out on every street.

    June 13, 2013 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Glovergirl

    There is nothing wrong with that if all agree. But, understand that Race is an illusion and Culture can be learned.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. SHARK

    Sorry, cupcake. I'm quite young.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    Thats Funny! My wife is black and I am white. My wife is Jewish. She converted along time ago and they welcomed her with open arms. I am not Jewish either. I go to the temple with her sometimes and they are great!

    June 13, 2013 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. silencedogood

    I'm white, my wife is east indian and we have lived both in NY and in are currently in TX. Roughly 95% of people are fine. A small number will give you a dirty look (usually Indians, hispanics or black people) but this is a tiny minority that we just ignore. Black people have also been (genuinely) some of the nicest when they see us together. Occasionally I get the what I think of as the "white guilt" look from some white people who look at me as if I'm doing community service, which I think is just as bad as the dirty looks. Our kids are beautiful. There is no real difference in how we are treated in the South. And we notice more and more couples like us every day.

    All that said, I don't need anyone else to validate my relationship or my family. I can and will love who I want without a thought for what other people think about it. If people don't like it that is their problem. To be honest, until a third party intrudes with a look both of us forget that we are different color. Those on the pro and con side should try that.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  16. Steve

    You are so WRONG! Im white and my wife of 8 years is black. We get way more problems and looks of disgust from black males then white. Not saying we dont get them from white guys either...just not as much.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      You just need to see through his post. As I said, his objective is to take a shot at white males. He knows it makes his blood boil when a white man has a fine black woman on his arm, but in a desperate attempt to save face, he turns it around to make white men look inferior.

      June 13, 2013 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  17. ID

    I've only ever been in interracial relationships and while I find it easy to be with that girl it is oftentimes the other family members that have to adjust.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I think one of the issues that sets people off is that the media only shows one aspect of multiracial families. They only show black men with white women. Why not show a white guy with a black woman, or a hispanic woman with an Asian man. With the way commercials are shown, its like, multiracial families are ok but only if its a black man and white woman...

      June 13, 2013 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
      • ID

        Mmmm. They do kind of do that. It's the stereotypical interracial couple in the media's eyes. I don't care too much though.

        June 13, 2013 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  18. Allie

    Since when are the only interracial marriages between blacks and whites? You do know there are other races, right?

    If you include Asians, I actually know many, many interracial couples.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  19. cg3221

    Believing you are actually made up of one race is ridiculous. We all walked out of Africa and after thousands of years of differentiating started walking again (Silk Road, anyone?), and mixing with different races that resulted from the creation of distinct gene pools and of course, climate. We've been moving and mixing for thousands of years. Read about the Tarim mummies of China. Take a DNA test and you'll be pleasantly surprised, or if you are a racist, extremely disappointed and declare that scientists are making up things and trying to push an agenda. Add to that the fact that it's already been proven that most Europeans have Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. We are not pure anything; our appearance is only the result of certain genes dominating others.

    June 13, 2013 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Potent

      There is only one race. However, to continue mixing is going full circle all over again. Meaning there was a season of mixing and then a season not to – thus the difference (and thank God for them). The only racists are the people who have a problem socializing with other who are different from them, but have no problem sleeping with ANYONE. Some find it hard to love, without lusting. Some simply think that if they look at someone and lusts, that it must be love. For this reason and due to the level of ignorance of most people; most people should run from each other and not to.

      June 13, 2013 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  20. Big Man

    No, our media and govt stirs "racists."

    June 13, 2013 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  21. F. Lee Hall III

    Come on Russ. Do you also cry about gas prices and lost innocence ? How can we heal (as you put it) from something if no one will stop crying about it? Did you have to use a separate bathroom? And if so, did it cause you severe emotional distress? If so, you don't now, why are you still crying about it? Please get a grip......

    June 13, 2013 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  22. Martha

    Perhaps that's the ratio where you live, but Black people and interracial marriages are more common in NYC, Detroit, Chicaco, Los Angeles, etc than in other areas. So, many times commercials and films are reflecting the truth when they portray higher numbers in Black people and interracial marriages. Commercial and films do not always a reflect what you see—sometimes the media reflects what other people see. In short, it's not always about you.

    June 13, 2013 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  23. Russ

    Did you even read the article? The answer to your question is in the very beginning – 1 in 7 marriages in the US are now interracial, it's the fastest growing young demographic in the US. So maybe your post servces an agenda as opposed to today's commercials.

    June 13, 2013 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  24. Joe

    Mostly what I've seen in media is black women with white men. The black man with a white woman is new to me, and I'm thinking it's only showing up now as an experiment. In any case, who cares how the pairings are most likely to occur.....unless they offend you?

    June 13, 2013 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  25. jj

    Hard to imagine this is still an issue today.............unreal.

    June 13, 2013 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  26. Shannen

    pepsee, any woman with an ounce of class would not tout that they are "way way way more educated than any white woman he ever dated" and any person who has a quality education would not correlate the color of brain matter with skin color. Sounds like you have a generic education and serious insecurities with your own ethnicity.

    June 13, 2013 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
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