Sunday, August 2, 2015

Interracial Relationships, Symbols of Hate, and Supreme Court Rulings

Hey scholars!

This post is an Author’s Spotlight and a Promotion of a forthcoming double novel. The topic of this new book is very controversial and in my opinion is relevant and right on time with what is going on in our society today. This post is going to cover quite a bit of information and topics but I truly hope you enjoy it. So let us get into it.

In my "20 Random Facts About Me" post, I listed two of my favorite authors. One of those writers is Tiana Laveen. I began reading her work in 2012 with her publication, “The Slave Master’s Son.” The story piqued my interest because not only is it an interracial romance novel, it is also a historical novel. At the time I came across this book, I was finishing my Master’s thesis, which explores the creative works of Black American women. I strongly believe in bringing fiction into the classroom as does many other educators who have and are currently using such works in their curriculum. I make a greater argument for using historical fiction especially if the history informs the fiction. At the time, I was dealing with revising thesis chapters, speaking at conferences, graduate assistant duties, anticipation regarding admission decisions from PhD programs, and dealing with rejection letters from a number of PhD programs. In my need to get away from my everyday hustle and bustle before going insane, I started reading “The Slave Master’s Son.”

                                (photo credit: Tiana Laveen)

While reading the book, I had a few thoughts running through my head regarding how the book was put together. I was impressed with this writer’s style of storytelling. When I read, I like to know more than what the characters say, where they are, and what they are wearing. She really knows how to set a scene. For me, if a book is well written, at a certain point I am no longer reading a book, rather, I am watching it play out. I could tell pretty much immediately that some serious research took place. Not only did she look into the intricacies of slavery, she also did her research in regards to regions, specifically Richmond, Virginia and New York City during slavery and on the dawn of Reconstruction. Although slavery had been prohibited well before 1864  in NYC (the book opens in 1863), there were laws that prohibited blacks from enjoying certain liberties that were automatically afforded to whites. In addition, her research is proven when she provides details of the surroundings of the characters in Richmond and New York City, which is important since these areas look vastly different in the 19th century from the 21st century.

This book is not just another historical romance novel. As I stated previously, it is an interracial romance. Typically when discussing the interactions between black women and white men during slavery, these relationships are depicted as being consensual although there were many that were. This angle right here sets this book a part from many other historical books for that reason alone. For many reasons, this dynamic, black women and non-black men relationships tend to be overlooked and still frowned upon not just in the 19th century but also in our contemporary moment. I have heard many people say that black women who are in relationships with white men are marrying the slave master as if black women and white men form relationships with one another to play out some slave/master fantasy. During slavery, not all of the sexual relationships were forced or brutal, many were actually very loving. In these relationships, past and present, white men were not with black women because they believed the notion that black women were promiscuous and hypersexualized. On the other hand, black women are not with white men or any other non-black men due to self-hate or hating black men. Let us fast forward to the 20th century when laws stipulated that interracial relationships were illegal regardless of the legitimacy of the dynamics.   

                                       (photo credit: Bettman/CORBIS)

I think back to the relationship of Richard and Mildred Loving. In 1958, Richard Loving, a 23-year-old white construction worker, and Mildred Jeter, a 17-year-old black woman, married in Washington, D.C to avoid Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which stipulated that miscegenation was illegal between whites and blacks. After marrying, the Loving’s returned home to backlash against their marriage. They were charged with unlawful cohabitation and thrown in jail. The judge who presided over the case, Leon M. Bazile, stated at the time, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix” ( He then sentenced the Loving’s to a year in jail, which would be suspended if they agreed to leave the state of Virginia for 25 years. The couple left Virginia for D.C. to live with family. Shortly after, they returned to Virginia to visit family and were arrested for traveling together. In 1963 with the Civil Rights Movement raging on, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking him if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would allow them to return home. In his response, Kennedy, stated that bill would not affect their marriage and told her to contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A lawyer for the organization, Bernie Cohen, agreed to take the case. 

This is what the letter says:

Dear Sir:

I am writing to you concerning a problem we have. Five years ago my husband and I were married here in the District. We then returned to Virginia to live. My husband is White, I am part negro and part Indian. At the time we did not know there was a law in Virginia against mixed marriages. Therefore we were jailed and tried in a little town of Bowling Green. We were to leave the state to make our home.

The problem is we are not allowed to visit our families. The judge said if we enter the state within the next thirty years, that we will have to spend one year in jail. We know that we can't live there, but we would like to go back once and awhile to visit our families and friends. We have three children and cannot afford an attorney.

We wrote to the Attorney General, he suggested that we get in touch with you. Please help us if you can. Hope to hear from you real soon.

Yours truly,

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving

In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional, thereby striking down any remaining segregation laws. In its opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, it was stated that miscegenation laws were in direct violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Warren wrote, “We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race.”

          Eleven years later in January 1978, Ebony magazine ran an article entitled, “Black Women/White Men: The ‘Other’ Mixed Marriage.” This otherness denotes that while controversial, marriage between black men and white women were public and talked about while the ‘other’ marriage among black women and white men was something that was largely invisible and not a topic of discussion regardless that this dynamic existed for a very long time. This invisibility has been contributed to the “low profile” lives they live or in the case of many entertainers of the time, Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Eartha Kitt, and Lena Horne, choosing not to flaunt their personal lives, instead choosing to keep parts of their personal lives as private as possible. This is not to say that the relationships among black men and white women are seen as highly visible due to black men’s desires to flaunt their trophy wives as a way of acquiring power and achieving status, something that white men married to black women do not do. However, this statement of mine contradicts the sentiments of an interviewee in the article who claimed that black men were marrying white women to flaunt and parade them around their friends. One of the interesting aspects in this article is the survey that was conducted in Minnesota, Indiana, and Arizona, by a black woman to gauge the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and experiences of black women with white men. This survey exposed the negative and hypocritical thoughts and actions of black men in regards to black women being in relationships with white men. While a number of black men have felt and many today do as well that black women have turned their backs on them, black women have stated that this is not the case and instead simply married men who love them- no power plays, no status symbols. 


           This dynamic has brought out the violent nature of many hateful individuals and groups. Case in point, in 2008 in Riverside, California, a married couple, was killed in their home, execution style. August 2012, a white man was beaten nearly to death by three black men for being with his black girlfriend in a public space. As they were walking around Savannah, this group of men taunted the two for being an interracial couple. Last year, a black woman and her boyfriend who is Armenian, were attacked in Pasadena, California for being an interracial couple. Since we have a black president, we are supposed to be living in a post-racial society, right? (*serious eye roll*)   

The shooting by a white supremacist in Charleston’s most historically black church has brought up the question, should the Charleston crime keep black women from dating white men? I admit that when I first saw this question I was like, WTF?! While I can understand their emotional responses, I do not think that this thinking is practical nor is it rational. I think of all the black women who have been attacked by black men for being with men who were not black. I think of all of the black women who have been beaten, raped, and killed by black men. Even with all of this, I do not hear an outcry from black women stating that no longer will they date and marry black men, so why allow the thoughts and actions of a small number of racist, hateful men lead you to think that as a group that white men should be written off. As black women, we know better than anyone does what this type of thinking does to a group, how hurtful it is, how psychologically traumatizing this is. A vlogger that I follow, Christelyn Karazin, responded to comments made by black women regarding the question of deciding not to date white men. Here is the link to the page:   

          Due to the shooting in Charleston, instead of addressing white supremacy and focusing on the shooter’s fate, and discussing how alive and prevalent racism truly is, there has been rallying cries to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol. This began because when flags were lowered because one of the victims was Clementa Pinckey, who was a pastor and a member of the South Carolina Senate. Well all of the flags were lowered except one, the Confederate flag. The firestorm began. Since then, media attention has been drawn away from the shooter, the victims, and discourse on racism and white supremacy. Battle lines were drawn. One side hollered that the flag is a symbol of heritage and the other cried it is a symbol of racism. The battle lines were not necessarily drawn by color; there are people of different colors (mostly black and white) on both sides of the debate. In my opinion, the Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate. Knowing the history behind the flag, that heritage is built on hate. For anyone arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery, I say you need to read. Of course, there were many reasons why the war took place, but slavery was at its core, the very heart of it. Since the Civil War, it has been embraced by racist hate groups namely the KKK. While I am for the flag being taken down, this does not mean that our problems are solved. I feel that in this situation the flag was used as a scapegoat. While we sat back and listened to our elected government officials argue back and forth on whether to leave it up or take it down, activist and filmmaker Bree Newsome took the damned thing down herself.

                                                  (photo credit: Democracy Now)

        Ultimately, a decision was reached and the flag was taken down and sent to a museum. Due to this decision, the KKK in South Carolina staged a protest and came face to face with anti- white supremacy protestors at the South Carolina Statehouse. The anti- white supremacy protesters were there to call for government officials to do more than bring down a flag. Obviously, they were valid in their reasoning if a hate group known for its terrorizing and violence towards other groups especially black people was given permission to hold a rally and not just in South Carolina but in other states in the south. We need a lot more action than removing flags. Removing a flag does not change the hearts and minds of those who worship its significance, carry it, wear it, and fly it with unapologetic pride. 

                                               (photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

           Back to Tiana Laveen (finally Rebekkah, I thought you said this was about her anyway….). There are many reasons why I consider Tiana Laveen one of my favorite authors. I love how she covers topics that are considered taboo or touchy. Many readers say that they enjoy a book because it is relatable. I have found this to be true for every story of hers that I have read. Not only does she publish novels but she has volumes of short stories as well. When introducing someone to her works, I always suggest that they read at least one of the short story volumes first to get acquaint themselves with her writing style. After reading “The Slave Master’s Son,” I bought every book she had published up until that point. Eventually, I read Cross Climax II. In this particular volume is a short story, “The N-Word” about an imprisoned white supremacist, Aaron falling in love with a black woman, Mia who is an elementary school teacher. Yes, she went there! I am so glad that she did. They met through a prison pen pal system. After a few letters exchanged between the two of them, Aaron gets suspicious and even falls in love with her. They make arrangements to meet and once he sees her, let’s just say the story heats up from there...

                                                    (photo credit: Tiana Laveen) 

          Tiana has since expanded this story and will be releasing it as a full-length novel, actually a double novel- The N-Word and Word of Honor. I strongly encourage you to read the short story “The N-Word” first. I think that the release of this double novel is timely. This post discussed so many issues we face in our society with many of them being the topic of conversation whether in the media, in classrooms, in homes, public institutions, and across social media platforms. I am looking forward to seeing how this story has been expanded upon, how deep into white supremacist organizations she delves into, and how Aaron and Mia’s relationship begins and grows.

                                               (photo credit: Tiana Laveen) 

I love that with each book, Tiana releases a book trailer. 

          48 years after the Supreme Court ruled that the miscegenation clause was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same sex marriage across the nation. Now all marriages regardless of color and/or gender is legal. Love wins again. Still.

*I encourage you to check this phenomenal woman out for yourself. 

Travel Bucket List

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