Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Long Way Home: The Loving Story" documents the Virginia case that challenged laws against interracial marriage

Long Way Home: The Loving Story” (2011, Nancy Buirski) is a documentary, for HBO, of the history of the case Loving v. Virginia, which resulted, in 1967, the Supreme Court’s striking down Virginia’s law against miscegenation, or interracial marriage.
In fact, Richard Perry Loving (white), and Mildred Delores Loving (part black and part Native American) were arrested for “cohabitation” near Bowling Green, VA on a tip, after being married in Washington DC.  Mildred had been pregnant before marriage.  A jail term had been suspended on condition that they never return to Virginia.

The film traces the appeals (which involved some risk), through the Virginia system and eventually the oral arguments before the Court.  There were arguments about whether the state had the “right” to regulate who got married and how families were formed (or what families were formed).  There was a degree of circularity in the defendant’s argument that children of mixed-raced couples are adversely affected, when it is racism itself that affects them.

One interesting point made in the film is that segregation itself was often focused on keeping whites and blacks separated in intimate spaces, where sex and procreation might be more likely to result.  The film also considers racial purity (as a byproduct of segregation) almost like a pseudo-sexual fetish.  People were addicted to the idea that Caucasian people “ruled the world” (in various historical contexts) had had to be viewed as “morally” superior.  As a boy in the 1950s, I had noticed that men and women were more distinguished by amount of body hair among Caucasians than those of most other races, and wondered if this had anything at all to do with the prejudice.  My father even mentioned that once or twice.  The film comes close to saying that.

Here’s the text of the unanimous Loving v. Virginia opinion on Justia.  don’t know if the oral arguments are online.

The film mixes aspect ratios, with many of the interviews and older news footage in old 4:3 aspect (for TV) and in black and white, or reduced color.
The official site is here. The film has played at Tribeca and AFI Silverdocs.
The film would be of interesting conjunction with documentaries to come on same-sex marriage, particularly in the question of a "fundamental right" to marry a mutually consenting adult/ 

The film uses the theme from the slow movement of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” in conjunction with the couple’s returning home to a town SE of Fredericksburg.  

Update: June 16, 2014

The couple apparently lived at Center Point, VA, a tiny community at the intersection of two Caroline County Roads, 625 and 630, about 10 miles SE of "Bowling Green" VA.  Route 625 skirts the boundary of Fort A.P. Hill, VA (link)  The relatively low-profile base provides combat arms training for reserve units (the "stop loss problem") and is a little bit controversial in having hosted Boy Scout jamborees.

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