Interracial Marriages Face Pushback 50 Years After Loving v. Virginia The U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriages between people of different races 50 years ago. But some interracial couples today say they sometimes feel unaccepted in the U.S.
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Interracial Marriages Face Pushback 50 Years After Loving

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Interracial Marriages Face Pushback 50 Years After Loving

Interracial Marriages Face Pushback 50 Years After Loving

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Fifty years ago today, Richard and Mildred Loving won the right to live as husband and wife in Virginia in a landmark Supreme Court case. Richard was white. Mildred described herself as, quote, "part negro and part Indian". At the time, 16 states banned mixed-race marriages. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang recently met with an interracial couple in Virginia who say that story resonates with them today.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Like many couples, D.J. and Angela Ross fell in love on the dance floor.

ANGELA ROSS: So we were dancing to...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE")

BILL MEDLEY: (Singing) Now, I've...

A. ROSS: What is it? "The Time Of My Life."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(I'VE HAD) THE TIME OF MY LIFE")

MEDLEY: (Singing) ...Had the time of my life.

A. ROSS: I swear to you, it was as if there was no one in the room.

D.J. ROSS: I don't remember anything else but just me and her. It's like everybody else just disappeared.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(I'VE HAD) THE TIME OF MY LIFE")

JENNIFER WARNES: (Singing) I owe it all to you.

WANG: But the two were not supposed to end up together, according to their families. D.J. is black, and Angela is white.

D.J. ROSS: My grandma on both sides used to tell me on both sides used to tell me, boy, you better leave those white girls alone or else we're going to come find you hanging from a tree or - just different stuff like that.

A. ROSS: I mean, I grew up - you can have friends with black people, and that's fine. But don't ever marry a black man.

WANG: But on Valentine's Day 2008, Angela tied the knot with D.J. in Virginia. That would have been illegal more than 50 years ago, when state law designed to, quote, "preserve racial integrity" prevented a white person from marrying someone who was not white. Richard and Mildred Loving were thrown in jail and later banished from Virginia for breaking that law in 1958.

PHILIP HIRSCHSKOP: This period was a very dangerous period. You didn't want publicity for them still living in the South.

WANG: Philip Hirschskop was one of the lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the Lovings' case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

HIRSCHSKOP: President Kennedy was assassinated. Medgar Evers was assassinated. The girls were killed at the church in Alabama. These were very tough, difficult times.

WANG: Still on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the opinion that, quote, "the freedom to marry or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state."

A. ROSS: I can't even believe that was only a few years ago.

D.J. ROSS: I can't imagine just going through what they went through.

WANG: Marrying outside your race still comes with challenges for D.J. and Angela Ross.

D.J. ROSS: It's true that we can be together in the open. But with some things, I don't think we've made much progress. I mean, just - discrimination still happens.

A. ROSS: When we all have gone out as a family, the looks that we get - people shaking their head - number one, because we're a big family, but two, that we're married with five biracial children.

WANG: Angela says she's learned to have more self control over the years.

A. ROSS: Someone may look at me that disagrees with my choice in marrying my husband. I can't take that on. I can't take on their opinion of me because I know my value, and I know my self worth.

WANG: Opinions about interracial marriages have shifted dramatically over the past 50 years. With declining opposition to interracial marriages today, the share of newlyweds in interracial marriages has grown sharply, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. Now, 1 out of every 6 six newlyweds is married to someone of a different race.

Next year, Angela and D.J. Ross are set to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They're focused on providing a safe home for their family among the rolling green hills outside of Roanoke, Va.

A. ROSS: And what's over here, Marianna? What's planted here?

MARIANNA: Broccoli.

A. ROSS: More broccoli, cauliflower...

MARIANNA: I think this is jalapenos.

WANG: Angela homeschools their two youngest daughters, Marianna and Jordis, in their garden and living room. From there, you can see cows and horses grazing on farmland. D.J. says he's at peace out here with his family.

D.J. ROSS: As soon as I get here, it's like everything's just gone. You know, I don't have to worry about people looking at me differently because I'm home.

WANG: He adds, it's just us here.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.

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