A news item this morning brought back bitter memories of a shameful time in America’s past, and I wondered at the chutzpah some commentators have shown in condemning the Rev. Jeremiah Wright so self-righteously.
Here is the item:
“RICHMOND, Va. – Mildred Loving, a black woman whose challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down such laws nationwide, has died, her daughter said Monday.
“Peggy Fortune said Loving, 68, died Friday at her home in rural Milford. She did not disclose the cause of death.
“Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.
“They had married in Washington in 1958, when she was 18. Returning to their Virginia hometown, they were arrested within weeks and convicted on charges of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” according to their indictments.
“The couple avoided a year in jail by agreeing to a sentence mandating that they immediately leave Virginia. They moved to Washington and launched a legal challenge a few years later.
“After the Supreme Court ruled, the couple returned to Virginia, where they lived with their children Donald, Peggy and Sidney.
“Richard Loving died in 1975 in a car accident that also injured his wife.
“In a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, Loving said she wasn’t trying to change history — she was just a girl who once fell in love with a boy.
” ‘It wasn’t my doing,” Loving said. “It was God’s work.’ ”
God’s work, indeed! And surely the law that dared to come between a man and his wife was the Devil’s work. Surely, it was Satan who persuaded leaders of this country to introduce and enforce degrading segregation laws. Surely, Lucifer watched and laughed as innocent black men hung from a mulberry tree not far from my Florida home, the tree that gave the town of Mulberry its name.
If you lived during the Fifties and Sixties, if you can remember how it was, you might sympathize with a 67-year-old black man’s excess of rage. There are many reasons to be proud of America, but the treatment of its black citizens during Pastor Wright’s youth is not one of them.