This past weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to our nation’s capital for the wedding of my cousin Abbey. She had been engaged for a few years to a man named Jim, Jimin for long. He’s from India and has an English accent. I thought it was the coolest thing when I first met him. It sounded like he could have played a role in “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Her sister, Sarah, recently had a son with her husband Shelton, a black man. They named their son DeMarco after our family’s close-knit Italian heritage. What I admire most about both of these relationships is the diversity they offer to my family.
They played a mixture of American and Indian pop hits at the reception, and I learned several dance moves thanks to Jimin’s family members. I had a blast. Shelton, who is acclaimed for his dance moves, also showed me a thing or two.
After the wedding, however, I started to think about something hypothetical: What if these couples had met 50 or so years ago?
Up until 1964, Florida Statute 798.05 stated that any black man and white woman, or any black woman and white man, who are not married and live under the same roof shall be punished by up to a year in jail.
It wasn’t until this year that, during the McLaughlin v. Florida case, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled laws banning interracial relationships violate the Fourteenth Amendment.
But, nonetheless, states still tried banning interracial marriage all the way up until 2000 when Alabama became the last state to officially legalize these marriages.
That was just 15 years ago. This nation still has a long way to go in accepting diversity. A ban on interracial and same-sex couples is not only a violation against love — it’s a violation against happiness.
Society, slowly but surely, has been taking baby steps in reaching a level of acceptance. A 2012 Pew Research report states 8.4 percent of all U.S. marriages were interracial, a 5.2 percent increase since 1980.
I’m thankful for how diverse my family has become. But diversity isn’t the color of one’s skin — it’s different cultural practices and traditions they partake in and the lessons they have to offer to my family. Race is only a social construct. It isn’t real, but society makes it real.
It’s time we stop seeing things as black and white and start looking at people as fellow human beings. A world with only one type of person is a world I don’t wish to be a part of.
Though it is legal in most states, there will always be opponents of interracial and same-sex relationships as long as there is a lack of allies fighting for equality. The happiness of others depends on people stepping forward.
Email Chris Burek at firstname.lastname@example.org