What is this 1967?
A white Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.
. . . Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.
. . . Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during his career, all in the past 2 1/2 years.
This article simple astounded me, not solely because of the interracial marriage issue but because of the nuances and details of the issue.
One the one hand, we have a loving man and woman who want to get married. This is the story of millions of individuals and additionally many interracial couples – I was included in this when I was married. This couple must have simply been blindsided. When I was in high school I dated a girl who was euro-American (white) and her step-father had some issues with our relationship, a couple years ago when I was married to my wife Alyssa there were some minor issues with my wife’s – who is Taiwnese-American – family. But those were unfortunately expected.
What occurred in Louisiana couldn’t have been expected. A governmental agent said “no”. Although he qualified and says that “I didn’t tell this couple they couldn’t get married. I just told them I wouldn’t do it” he is basically thwarting the law. Somehow he has been able to let his personal preference to usurp law. This situation is simply ridiculous, but what do we take from this, what insight does it give us?
1. Mis-conception of interracial difficulty –
It is interesting that the justice of the peace mentioned the difficulty of the children. This is an age old argument against interracial marriage. It is predicated on assuming that difficulty – if present – is a bad thing and that difficulty will occur in the first place. And although this was a white man saying this – which includes issues of power/history etc. – this sentiment is held by those of all races who oppose interracial marriage. But this is somewhat of a straw man argument. Few, is any, proponents of interracial marriage hinge and argument on the difficulty or lack of difficulty in an interracial relationship. Most individuals who enter into interracial marriages are quite aware of the societal push backs (i.e. my wife and I know that groups of black women and groups of Asian men are prone to stare, un-lovingly, at us ). The assumption that someone is protecting the children by opposing interracial marriage is pretty naive , especially given the emergence of multi-racial figure such as Obama, Tiger Woods, Heinz Ward, Jessica Alba, Keanu Reeves etc. Futhurmore it is patronizing and suggest that those getting married don’t care about their children. Again, this is not a white issue it is an issue for folks in various cultures and racial backgrounds.
2. White American individualism –
“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”
There is no better example than this. First, the comment that he is not racist. There is a difference between being a racist and doing something racist. And this was the latter. I don’t know this man, he may not be a person who is wholly racist, but this act was racist. He and we as a society must address that. Second, claiming that “I have black friends”. This is often a way that white individuals push back. White Americans often individualize (Divided By Faith). This issue of race, including interracial marriage, is not solely a person to person issue it is a societal issue as well. Individualizing it devalues the societal impacts. It is a both/and nor either/or issue.
3. The importance of slowing assumptions –
I can read this ans assume that this justice of the peace doesn’t like Black people. I can even read into his defense and understand the context of where he is living and assume he has issues with Black folk.
But that would be wrong of me.
This man probably spoke reality when he said folks in BOTH Black and white communities wouldn’t be accepting; in Louisiana – in many states – many from both groups may have issues. His folly was not having some concern – though he should have kept it to himself – but it was in refusing to marry the couple and various others in the past. We have to take this issue at that level. No more and no less.