When I was little, my Dad told my little sister and me that someday there would be no white people and no black people, but that everybody would be shades of brown, and no one would care. Laurie and I thought this was going to happen in our lifetime. When Laurie brought home a friend who was both black and male when she was about ten, Dad had to accept that what he had taught us…we had learned. He was OK with that. This was about a decade after Loving vs the State of VA had made interracial marriage legal across the nation. Laurie and I had no idea it had ever been illegal.
I found out today how very atypical my Dad and my childhood were. In 1968, a year after Loving, only 20% of Americans believed that people of different races should be allowed to marry each other. It was not until 1991 that more people supported interracial marriage than opposed it, 48% to 43% with 9% unsure or undecided. 1991, two years after I graduated from college.
Today approximately half of voters support same sex marriage. Given that it took 24 years AFTER the legal change to get to the same number in support of interracial marriage, it seems inevitable to me that this next step in the journey towards equality for all of humanity will happen. I hope it will be soon, but I have faith that it will happen.
My Dad would be 92 if he were still alive, and I think that this would likely have been a step too far for him. I do not in any way mean to belittle him in saying this. He grew up in backwoods Maine before and during the Great Depression, and the only word he knew for African Americans before he went off to college was the one that we DON’T use today. He still made his first black friend in college, welcomed children of multiple races as grandchildren, and instructed my little sister that she had better go ahead and marry her Pakistani college sweetheart before her moping drove the entire family crazy. I am proud to be his daughter.
My step Dad is only six years younger, but in some ways seems a different generation. I was pleasantly shocked when he “liked” a pro same-sex marriage link I had posted on Facebook. I’m not sure exactly how comfortable he is with legalizing same sex marriage, but I suspect he’s further along than Daddy would have been. For many reasons, of which this is only one, I am also proud to be his step-daughter.
I am frustrated, sometimes, when others don’t see the same wonder in equality that I do. There is still a vocal minority in this country that opposes interracial marriage, let alone same-sex marriage. But I try to remember that few people have had the advantages that I have had.
If I seem to see further, it is that I stand on the shoulders of giants.