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What Mildred Knew

Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967.
Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967. (Associated Press)

"I feel like . . . I'd be sacrificing something of my own racial identity," said a third.

My own mother, who grew up in the days of segregation, used to speculate that in the heat of argument, my white man might utter a racial slur. "He might not say it," she admitted when pressed. "But he might be thinking it. What woman wants that?"

So, for a black man, marrying a white woman is a status symbol, but for a black woman, marrying "out" means you've given up or are manifesting self-hate? Apparently, what is grain for the gander is poison for the goose, even though, according to the Census Bureau, in 2005 a full 70 percent of black women were single (with a large number of them presumably looking for black men) -- while black men openly pursued women of a host of colors and ethnicities.

I muse on these things, but I've learned to move past them. I'm over judging all whites by the actions of some, today or in decades past. I'm over worrying about how people perceive my husband and me, whether it seems as though I've given up on black men, whether I'm some kind of traitor to my own blackness. (Though to all my single sisters out there: My husband has never called me the N-word, even in anger; he has required no sacrifices of my identity, racial or otherwise. He's a compassionate, hardworking family man.)

Ultimately, it's simple: You love who you love, if you're lucky enough to find love.

As Mildred Loving knew, it's not about black or white at all. Her case and our Loving Day celebrations (made all the more significant this year by her death last month) have little to do with love or life. Making a marriage work lies in all the things that make up life as a man and woman: paying bills, raising children, trying to keep the connection between you vibrant and alive. Color isn't a part of that.

Karyn Langhorne Folan, a novelist, is most recently the author of "Unfinished Business." Her Web site is karynlanghorne.com.


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