Racism in '09: My Views On The Louisiana Judge Denying Mixed Race Marriage
When I read about Keith Bardwell, a white justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parrish, Louisiana, saying no to issuing a marriage license to an interracial couple, my first reaction was shock that someone can consider doing that sort of thing in the 21st Century.
After thinking about it, though, I'm honestly not that surprised about what went down.
Bardwell was obviously wrong in what he did; the fact that he stated, "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," shows his ignorance and makes him exactly what he claimed he wasn't.
Due to the Supreme Court striking down the laws banning mixed-race relationships and marriage in 1967, Bardwell was breaking the law in saying that Beth Humphrey, who is white, and Terrance McKay, who is black, could not marry.
He should barred from the bench for life for his actions; that is a given.
There is one thing that I will say on Bardwell's behalf, however, something that I don't think anybody else has considered...
At least he was honest in his views on race.
In his iconic autobiography, Malcolm X put it best when he wrote that many Southern whites tell blacks to their face that they "...never will accept...integration," and that they are against "...even the so-called 'tokenism'."
That's in contrast to the countless people of all races who share Bardwell's views on interracial or interethnic relationships and feel that people "should stick to their own", but who are afraid to voice such opinions in public because they don't want to be seen as bigots.
In short, that Louisiana judge voiced in public what many others feel.
And for that I give him credit and respect for his honesty.
However, it does make me sad that in a time when the leader of the free world is an African American, there are still individuals out there - and not merely a handful of kooks - that see their race or culture as being superior and that the different groups shouldn't mix, and I am talking about blacks, Latinos, Asians and Middle Easterners who feel this way as well as whites; it's not just about the neo-Nazi skinheads out there.
Personally, I never could understand how human beings can reject someone for any kind of relationship based on skin color, where they came from in the world, or how they worship.
As I once heard someone in a movie say, love is a gift. Anything between two people that is loving should be at the very least tolerated, if not wholeheartedly accepted. If a black woman and a Jewish man, or a Latina and a Korean, find themselves in love and wanting to be together, it's no one's business, and definitely nobody's place to say that shouldn't date or marry.
The same thing goes for gays and lesbians, which is why I voted against Proposition 8, California's initiative banning same sex marriage, last year. If two women or two guys want to unite in holy matrimony, that is so their business. And theirs alone.
Ice-T once said in an interview that if you put a black two-year-old and a white two-year-old in a sandbox together, they'd play together.
In that context, toddlers have the right idea; if it's so easy for babies to disregard race, why does it sometimes seem so difficult for grown-ups to do the same?
Some people say that mixed race and intercultural relationships should be discouraged because strong ethnic families are needed. For example, many African American and Latino families view interracial dating and marriage negatively because it would weaken their culture and heritage.
I have always felt that was a big cop-out, a way for people to hide their biases and pawn it off as something else.
To put it another way, the Ku Klux Klan has a history of stating that their main goal was to preserve the white race and keep it pure; their actual motto in the 1920s was, "Protect White Womanhood".
In that context, blacks, Latinos and others who object to interracial and interethnic relationships are no better than those guys in the pointed hoods and white sheets, screaming "White Power!" and burning crosses like the bigots that they are.
I very well know that the majority of Americans and others in the world today feel as I do - that it makes absolutely no difference what pigmentation one's skin is or where one comes from when it comes to getting married, dating,or even friendships.
Martin Luther King hit the nail on the head when he said in his March On Washington speech that he dreamed of a time when his children wuld be judged not by the color of their skin but "...by the content of their character."
It's a good thing that millions are not only sharing that dream but are living it as well, much more in 2009 than when he said those words in 1963.
Bardwell's actions and statements, however, prove that - to coin a cliche - we have a long way to go before we reach the point of truly making judgements based on a person's soul rather than the look of him (or her).
In the meantime, I hope that couple in Louisiana obtained their marriage license and that they have a great life together.
That will show Bardwell and all those fellow bigots out there.