Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Maillard on The Multiracial Epiphany of Loving
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
The Multiracial Epiphany of Loving is a new essay by Kevin Noble Maillard, Syracuse University College of Law. It is forthcoming in the Fordham Law Review. Here's the abstract: The year 1967 becomes the temporal landmark for the beginning of an interracial nation. That year, the United States Supreme Court ruled state antimiscegenation laws unconstitutional in Loving v Virginia. In addition to outlawing interracial marriage, these restrictive laws had created a presumption of illegitimacy for historical claims of racial intermixture. Not all states had antimiscegenation laws, but the sting of restriction extended to other states to forge a collective forgetting of mixed race. Defenders of racial purity could depend on these laws to render interracial relationships illegitimate. Looking back to Loving as the official birth of Multiracial America reinforces the prevailing memory of racial separatism while further underscoring the illegitimacy of miscegenations past. By establishing racial freedom in marriage, Loving also sets a misleading context for the history of mixed race in America. Even though Loving instigates the open acceptance of interracialism, it unintentionally creates a collective memory that mixed race people and relationships did not exist before 1967. To imagine and realize a pre-1967 miscegenated America directly challenges the legal legitimacy of the racial reality that antimiscegenation law attempted to enforce. I approach this subject by examining contemporary claims of mixed race that are rooted in the past. This conflict usually entails opposing narratives: one venerating the involvement of a prominent historical figure as party to an interracial relationship; the other steadfastly holds that such claims are unfounded as specious. Placing miscegenation upon narratives and figures that are faintly characterized and understood as racially white turns private claims of mixed identity into public contemplations of interracial intimacy. To imagine historic figures as "Founding Fathers" of another sort destabilizes an implicit understanding of ingrained racial limitations.