Loving Day Q&A
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to a few ladies about Loving Day and they shared some of their stories. Erica, who’s parents married on Loving Day, opened up about her heritage and the important lessons she’s learned as part of a multicultural/multiracial family. Interracial relationships are more common than not in her family and that’s given her the opportunity to see many different stories about race. Here is part of her family’s story about their multicultural life.
Erica, could you tell us about your family?
Growing up in such a multicultural family gave me a fascination of “race” early on. As a child I knew I was different…but so were my cousins. We vary so much in color that I really had to sort it out early. Having such diversity also made us all extremely close. We grew up in the 80’s and interracial relationships were not as common as they are now. So the family unity became stronger …it was “us against the world”. In marriage, being a product of a interracial marriage has helped. You learn that marriage is work right off the bat, so it helps you bypass all the “side shows” of relationships.
You’re very knowledgeable about your family history and their involvement in the Underground Railroad and during the Jim Crow era. Tell us more about that heritage and why it’s such an important part of your family history.
As a child I would visit my great grandfather Eugene Settles who would recount to us the story of his grandfather Joseph Settles, who was a slave to a judge in Maysville Kentucky. After the judge passed away Joseph knew he had to make a move. He found a friend who helped him make a connection to the Underground Railroad. Joseph escaped with his family by crossing over the river to The Rankin House, which still stands today. You would think that growing up where freedom was celebrated, that Jim Crow laws wouldn’t have much power. Sadly that was not the case. My father still grew up reading signs that said “Whites Only”. He would tell me tales of how he and his brother’s would sneak into “Whites Only” places , how he would be walking and have racial slurs yelled at him and how he had to stand up to his peers when he made the choice to bunk with a Caucasian in the military. My dad taught me a lot about true equality and how to navigate though all the craziness of racism. I learned early on to be proud of being Puerto Rican and African American. It has always been my view that there is no future without a past. Our history shapes us whether we know it or not. However, when you know where you came from and what your family is like, you know yourself a lot better and there is security in knowing who you are.
Your parents married on Loving Day. Were they married before or after theLoving vs Virgina case? How has the Lovings’ story impacted your family? If you observe Loving Day, we’d love to hear more about the ways that celebrate and honor that day.
My parents were married in 1979, well after the Loving vs.Virgina case. However, the case definitely made an impact on my family. My father has 7 siblings. Out of the eight, 5 married interracially. If it had not been for Richard Loving, who knows how different my family would be. I am proud of the fact that none of them have divorced and they all live the “American Dream”. Unfortunately, we are scattered all over the U.S., so getting together is hard. But Loving Day is always a great time for us to reminisce about our family’s relationships and thank God for bringing them all together.
Did your parents marry on Loving Day intentionally?
No, they actually had no idea about Loving day until I told them! :) I’m the history buff in the family and they love it when I bring this stuff to their attention.
What are some challenges that you or your parents have faced as interracial couples? What are some benefits of being in an interracial relationship and a multiracial family?
My mother was the first to marry interracially in her family. “Papi”, my grandfather, hated my dad on sight. To say he didn’t like African Americans would be an understatement. He tried to get my dad lost in New York City, tried to make him take drugs & buy prostitues. Anything that he could go back to my mother with and say “See, black people are no good!”. Needless to say, my dad didn’t take the bait and won my Papi over. By the time I was born my dad had my mother’s whole family in his pocket! Even now they love him fiercely. For my mother, the Midwest was a shock. Ripley, OH is a very small town and it was the first time my mom had ever encountered any racism. It was the first time anyone had ever used a racial slur to her. My Nuyorican mom had to learn a whole new world, but she is a survivor and quitting was never an option for her. These things that my parents encountered definitely benefitted my life. From my father, I learned to stand strong and not give into peer pressure. From my mom, I learned never to give up and to realize that I will live, no matter how bad it may seem. The thing that I feel multiracial life brings is that not only do I learn these basic lessons, but I also learn them from different sides of the table. At the end of the day we are all human…the same. If we would just take a minute to see how our neighbors do it, we will be able to obtain our goals together, faster.
If you could share your wisdom with other interracial couples and families raising biracial or multiracial children, what would you tell them?
- Don’t shield your children from the truth. Children see more than we know and being honest and explaining things,on their level, will help them grow into well rounded adults.
- This world is crazy and confusing, but it is also wonderful and full of many beautiful things…show them the beauty.
- Educate your child on their history. Help your children realize they have three cultures. Mom’s, Dad’s and America’s (or the country you live in). Each will play an important role in their life. This will work in any kind of family unit.
- Learn about other cultures. Think, live and play outside of the box. Being out of your own comfort zone not only help you grow as a person but it will be an example to your children and they will follow.
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