When I hear about things like this, I often wonder if I have unknowingly stepped into a time machine and hurtled backwards into the past.
A white justice of the peace in Hammond, Louisiana named Keith Bardwell recently refused to issue a couple from the town a marriage license because the bride is white and the groom is black.
It doesn’t seem to matter much to Bardwell that in the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia case, the U.S. Supreme Court removed any race-based limitations on marriage in a unanimous decision that deemed such discrimination unconstitutional.
In an effort to defend himself and deflect accusations that he is a racist, Bardwell has pointed out that he does endorse and perform marriages of black couples in his own home. In addition, he has attempted to put an altruistic spin on his refusal to perform interracial marriages by stating that, “I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves,” Bardwell said. “In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer.”
As much as I wanted to write this off as another incident of isolated foolishness from an unfortunate and misguided individual, I happened to see a comment posted on an article about the situation published in the South Florida Times.
In response to The Associated Press account of the incident in Louisiana, a reader commented “Good for him! Thank you justice Bardwell. You’ve done the right thing to try and keep both the white and black races pure.”
In reading that comment, I realized that the justice in Louisiana is not the only one who thinks that the Supreme Court got it wrong and that in some way the offspring of interracial unions are tainted and less than pure.
As the African-American half of an interracial marriage, and the father of a biracial son, I am very aware of the myths and misconceptions that abound about families such as ours.
My marriage did not evolve due to a chronic case of “Jungle Fever.” In fact, my wife Kathy was the first and only white woman that I had ever dated. We met and fell in love while working in a profession for which we both share a common passion: education.
My marriage is not a denial of the worthiness or attractiveness of my black sisters, it is simply a union between two people who found each other, believed in each other, and continue to be in love with each other.
We did not have a child together because he would have “good hair” or because “those mixed kids sure have pretty skin.” We had our son because we knew we could raise him in a house full of love, and provide him with a sense of values and ambition that would make him an asset to society.
Our son is not “pure,” if you define pure in the way you would describe a food item or soap. He has additives that make him unique, but no better or less than any other child.
He speaks fluent Polish, his mother’s native tongue, but probably knows more about the civil rights movement and the historic struggle of African Americans than many people twice his age. Though he has been infused by two cultures, he is in no way confused by his two cultures.
Contrary to the concern of Justice Bardwell, my son is not suffering in any way. In many ways, he is years ahead of his peers in his ability to adapt to different social situations and thrive in our evolving, multicultural society.
Though I disagree with the comment left by the reader, he or she has an absolute right to that opinion, and I celebrate the fact that the South Florida Times has afforded that person a forum in which to speak his or her mind. Justice Bardwell, on the other hand, is breaking the law, and should be removed from his position immediately.
I respect any and everyone who does not like, encourage, or want an interracial dynamic in their house. What I do find interesting, however, is that many of these same people were the biggest supporters of the biracial kid who now resides in the White House.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Facing a discrimination lawsuit, Keith Bardwell resigned this week from his job as justice of the peace.