Virginians Should Watch “Loving”

If you haven’t seen “Loving” yet, you need to. The movie tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a white man and “colored” woman living in Caroline County in the 1950s, who married in violation of the law against mixed-race wedlock. Their case famously went to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the dismemberment of anti-miscegenation laws across the country.

While the movie touches upon the legal issues stemming from their predicament, it is first and foremost a love story of two people who build a life and family together. Refraining from overt moralizing, “Loving” is all the more powerful for its understatement. In the most moving scene in the movie, the ACLU attorney asks the laconic Loving if he has any words he wishes to convey to the justices of the Supreme Court. Replies the bricklayer: “Just tell the judges that I love my wife.”

Although the movie portrays a dark page from the Old Dominion’s history, Virginians will appreciate the beautiful photography of the Tidewater countryside and the evocation of a rural community in which whites, blacks and (unmentioned in the movie) Indians mixed socially despite the strictures of segregation.

“Loving” is a beautiful expression of natural libertarianism, the philosophy expressed by the phrase “live and let live.” The Lovings were not social crusaders. Like many Americans, they just wanted to be left alone. It was their misfortune to run afoul of laws designed to maintain the “purity” of the white race. Thankfully, legally enforced segregation is a thing of the past. But, sadly, there is no shortage of social engineers who would harness the power of the state in other ways to impose their values and obsessions upon others.

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42 responses to “Virginians Should Watch “Loving”

  1. re: ” a rural community in which whites, blacks and (unmentioned in the movie) Indians mixed socially with little concern for segregationist dogma.”

    It boggles my mind how one convinces himself of things like this.

    To wit:

    1. the schools were not only desegregated but the amount of resources provided for black schools was far less –

    2. – back then and to this very day – if you visit the churches – you will find most of them either white or black

    these are facts that directly contradict ” a rural community in which whites, blacks and (unmentioned in the movie) Indians mixed socially with little concern for segregationist dogma.”

    finally – keep in mind – that parents and grandparents attended those wholly segregated and wholly inferior schools – grew up and had kids that went to school and their parents did not have the education to help their kids that other parents who went to far better schools – had.

    All I’m suggesting here is that we deal with the way the world really was – and in some respects – remains and not try to recast it into something that simply was not the case.

    • Larry, try watching the movie. Or the “Loving” documentary, which it closely tracks. Outside of schools and churches, there seems to have been considerable intermingling of the races. Music, dancing, drag racing. When Richard and Mildred smooched in public before they got married, no one seemed to have a problem with it. You may think you know it all, but you don’t.

      http://www.kunc.org/post/loving-remarkably-modest-never-condescending-movie

      Also, the Lovings were able to live secretly in Virginia for a good while with no one turning them in.

      Caroline County appears to have had a remarkable sub-culture that did not hew to the norms of the rest of the state.

      • Jim – I don’t think I know it “all” but I DO KNOW THE HISTORY that you are ignoring. The Lovings were harassed and received death threats as well as other unfriendly actions….

        How in the world can you “believe” that “going to drag races” was an indication that other truly damnable discrimination was occurring like not being able to drink at the same water fountains, eat at the same lunch counter, or sit in the same seats in the theater… geeze guy – you either have a gigantic blind spot of real history or you just choose to ignore or not believe it!!

        you characterize ” their “misfortune” to live in a segregated society almost in the same breath as ” a beautiful expression of natural libertarianism, the philosophy expressed by the phrase “live and let live.”

        Do you really think the laws and overt behaviors of white folks back in those times was really some kind of “misfortune” rather than on purpose ?

        How in the world can you go to a movie and then come away from it and express these just utterly false things that are the exact opposite of the way the world was – for the Lovings?

        I think I’m starting to understand some brands of Conservatism these days that basically refuses to deal with the actual history and has to recast it as something it was not… as if it never happened.

        In no way, shape or form – was the Life of the Lovings anything but a victim of hate and ideology both from society and the State – not an accident… the direct actions of people – everyone from Sheriffs to all manner of elected officials – INCLUDING the Va Supreme Court – all of them dedicated to the idea that black people were inferior and did not deserve equality.

        I don’t need a “movie” to help me understand.. or in apparently some cases to not understand… when the written history – is more than ample if you want to read it – and believe it – and in my case – I did live in those times…

        Good LORD!

  2. re: ” Like many Americans, they just wanted to be left alone. It was their misfortune to afoul of laws designed to maintain the “purity” of the white race. Thankfully, legally enforced segregation is a thing of the past. But, sadly, there is no shortage of social engineers who would harness the power of the state to impose their values and obsessions upon others.”

    GEEZE! do you NOT think segregationist laws harnessed the power of the state to impose values on others “?

  3. Let me add one more. In 1959 , I LIVED in Caroline County – and I can relate first hand how blacks were treated in those days ….. IN Caroline County.

    And two years ago – the University of Mary Washington hosted a live panel discussion with the children of the Lovings…

    Maybe add it to your movie schedule:

    http://www.umw.edu/greatlives/2012/04/01/video-the-loving-story/

  4. Larry,
    Jim means well by t gets thinks mixed up. “Social engineers” is a buzzword for lefties as if they created Jim Crow!

    • Peter – it just drives me up the wall when folks “mean well” when it comes to the easily-verifiable history – and then yammer about “social engineering” as if what happened to blacks in the past was not “social” engineering.

      I can’t tell if Jim is just not well versed in history, easily misled or just sucks up whatever the right wing like to portray as the ‘truth’ but how anyone can go to the Lovings movie.. and NOT follow up with other accounts of that time period – AND THEN come away from it talking about Kumbaya between the races in that era – good grief!

      I’m giving up on the right – it’s not that I disagree with their Conservative philosophy- I actually agree with a lot of it on the fiscal side – but on the social side, it’s that they refuse to deal with the facts and realities – including obvious history – they just choose to recast into something else.. to fit
      what they want to believe! Anything that contradicts it is labeled as false.

      • I’m giving up on the right.”

        Larry, it would help if you stop mis-attributing ideas and motives to people. I never suggested that all was harmony and light between blacks — or singing kumbaya — in Caroline County. I’m suggesting that in this particular corner of Virginia, the segregation of the races was not as rigid as elsewhere. That’s all. Racial intermarriage was extremely rare in the South. Yet somehow it happened at least once in Caroline County. That suggests to me that perhaps the Lovings sprang from a social milieu that differed from other parts of Virginia.

        Anything that contradicts it is labeled as false.

        Does it ever occur to you that you do exactly the same thing?

        • ” Virginians will appreciate the beautiful photography of the Tidewater countryside and the evocation of a rural community in which whites, blacks and (unmentioned in the movie) Indians mixed socially with little concern for segregationist dogma.”

          to say the above with respect to segregationist Virginia is simply not the truth – and it’s not that hard to find that out.

          when it comes to “contradiction” it’s NOT what you want to believe – it’s what the facts are… not what you want to believe… and I suggest that if one actually goes and actually does want to find the truth with the world that blacks lived in – in Caroline County Va in the 1950’s – it’s more than one movie that ignores most of the harsh realities of that period.

          that’s the part that I would say we should not say is not true and to put it more directly – that’s the part we should recognize as TRUE.

          what rankles me is for someone to say that after watching the movie – that life wasn’t that bad for the Lovings…

          that’s just a total misrepresentation of the reality not only for them but for all blacks in that era….

    • Not all social engineers are lefties. Hitler was the ultimate social engineer.

  5. Dear Jim,

    Never think you are going to get “brownie points” from the Left. You have to totally submit or forget it. The Left loves miscegenation because it gets rid of White people. Period. They believe in “live and let die.” Since they’ve already whacked you, I shan’t from the other side. ;-))<

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

    • Huh, and here I thought my “love” of miscegenation was because it enabled white me to marry my beautiful, brilliant and hilarious black wife.

      But thanks for bringing the white supremacist point of view to this discussion since it’s so sorely lacking in today’s politics…

  6. I planned to see this movie anyway because there isn’t enough art made about thoroughly decent people trying to live thoroughly decent lives (other than this movie the two big pieces of art that fit the bill recently I can think of are both television shows – “Parks and Recreation” and “This Is Us”), but thanks for writing this so I remember to find my way into a theater sooner rather than later.

  7. Posted on behalf of PeterG. — JAB

    I do think Jim Bacon means well with his review of the Loving movie, but he does display a certain lack of knowledge of what living in the rural South was like in the timeframe.

    LarrytheG did live in Carolina County at the time, so he’s a good judge of what happened.

    As for me, I dealt intimately with the rural South a decade later after integration had supposedly occurred. It was 1971 and I worked summers at a small daily newspaper in North Carolina. It was a coastal area, very much like the Virginia Tidewater, but even more Southern because it had live oaks and cypress trees with Spanish moss.

    The paper put white obits on the front page and black ones on the back. White brides could refuse to have their wedding placed next to a black’s. On Thursdays, there was a social column titled “Among the Colored.” Even beaches were defacto separated by race.

    As for Andrew’s breathtakingly racist comment, unfortunately that may be the new reality with Donald Trump and his attorney general.

  8. I have rewritten a sentence in the post to reflect with greater clarity what I meant to convey. The movie evokes a place and time in which whites, blacks (and Indians) “mixed socially despite the strictures of segregation.”

    Of course segregation was the rule of the land — “separate but equal” schools, segregated water fountains, laws against intermarriage of the races, etc. — and there is nothing in the movie to suggest that Caroline County was in any way exempt. And obviously the law was enforced. (Otherwise the Lovings would not have been arrested.) What I’m suggesting, based entirely upon what I observed in the movie and the “Loving” documentary, is that blacks and whites intermingled in social situations like dances and drag races.

    Larry assumes that segregation was a monolithic institution that played out the same way everywhere across the South, and seems to be offended by any idea that local practices might have varied. As a student of history (including slavery), I have learned that human institutions are rarely applied or practiced uniformly.

  9. Actually, I did not assume anything other than what I had seen with my own two eyes in Caroline when I lived there – and in a few other places I have lived in the South. Yes.. there were “dances” – but your choice of partner was a strict convention…. and if you were black and “violated” those “conventions” no white folks were going to come to your defense – Not a one of the Loving’s social “buddies” lifted a finger to challenge their arrest or the laws that treated them different than themselves as white …

    so it was a bizarre and dysfunctional “mingling” of the races you could come to the dance but you better not drink out of the wrong fountain… or get snacks from the wrong snack counter…

  10. Loving is no doubt an exquisite movie about the lives of two people just trying to make their way through their lives in a world they don’t understand and find themselves in conflict with, did not ask for – and would do just fine if it were not forced on them.

    It’s easy to keep that perspective and savor the story and we should.

    but we should not forget the context – we should not IGNORE the context. We should recognize the world they lived in and why it was that way and admit it was not just some unfortunate circumstance of fate.

    if we don’t do that – then we fail to learn from history. we fail to see – and understand – how we got to where we are today – .. and perhaps what we can and should do – about …. today……

    we are supposed to be the intelligent beings on earth.

    sometimes.. in my darker moments.. I seriously doubt that conventional wisdom. We certainly do not seem to learn – we even don’t want to learn….from our history… we deny it .. and then repeat it.

  11. Dear Peter,

    To oppose Loving does not mean that one endorses all of Jim Crow. There was much idiocy, brutality (depending on the state in question) and needless humiliation in the minutia of its strictures, a few of which you cite. It is important to remember that Jim Crow was established in order to enable declared White Supremacists to “out-do” one another in their supposed “defense” of White racial integrity. Most of it, was just pointless humiliation of Black folks, to “prove their credentials.” Many White Southerners were coming to the realization, especially after the Second World War, and in the stark leaving and re-entry into their society that things were absurdly “tightly wound.” And, obviously, non-Southerners and Blacks had already figured that out. But many Blacks did not oppose separate neighborhood schools, PROVIDED, they were equally funded, which, as we all know, was mostly not the case. It had been changing after the end of the Second World War as “noises” were being made of an attack on Segregation for its inequality. But when Separatism was first instituted, DURING Reconstruction, it was seen as a win-win by both sides. Only when White Supremacists disfranchised most Black voters and then proceeded to cut the funding for Black Schools by “segregating the tax bases,” did it become punititive. Read Zora Neal Hurston’s views, she was a Black novelist and essayist from Florida, and she appreciated the good in that “benighted” era. The Brown decision of 1954 was about race-mixing first and foremost. Had they merely required the equal funding of the schools, there would have been no unrest. But that was not the point for which they were ultimately contending. Otherwise, they would have had immediate compliance, not 1965 or 1970, as it turned in many places in the South. The “path not taken” is what Vann Woodward described as the midway between extreme egalitarianism and inegalitarianism, the promise of genteel, moderate Southern Conservatism of the 1870s into the ’90s. It is what Trumpism should be aiming for, not Jim Crow, or “Tim Snow,” what we have now, with its “happy, upwardly mobile, ‘honkies.’ It is not either-or.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  12. history repeating:

    the above is NOT someone’s own idea of what is going on – but instead the facts and the realities – unvarnished.

    the REALITY is that THESE schools do NOT get the same level of resources that other schools in the same districts get – starting with teaching staff which is often entry level.

    • Unless I am missing something big, that is arguably the worst statistical analysis I have ever seen. The top graphic conveys some information but doesn’t account for growth in number of schools or students. It also ignores Hispanic immigration. It uses 2003 as a starting point. Why? I suppose we could reduce the number of “isolated” schools by following Donald Trump’s plan to build a big assed wall to keep poor Hispanics out of the USA. Is that your proposal? Recent immigrants to the United States have always chosen to live in areas near one another.

      The bottom graphic counts the number of “isolated” schools without any regard to population then backfills the jurisdiction with red on the map if there is even 1 “isolated” school? No consideration of population or total number of schools? NoVa has 23 isolated schools – out of how many total schools? No consideration of jurisdictions which are almost all white and couldn’t have an “isolated” school if they tried? Lee County is 96.3% white.

  13. Dear Larry,

    Have you taught in a “minority” school before? I have a taught in a mostly White private school and we had some difficult students, but people with whom I have spoken who have taught in, especially, Black schools, such as D.C. or Philadelphia, PA, have noted the extreme hardship that the students, themselves, impose upon the teachers and those of their fellow classmates who want to learn. The major reason these Black schools get the “newbie” teachers is because of these often appalling and demoralizing students who “burn out” their teachers, who are sick and tired of the anarchy that they see each and every day. When Black kids as a group behave better, then maybe their teachers won’t be so eager to escape to the “nice” (i.e. mostly White and/or Asian) schools.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  14. Dear Andrew – you don’t think that would be a problem in most predominately low-income schools regardless of race – or do you think it is specific to blacks?

  15. Dear Andrew – so a bigger problem with blacks?

  16. Dear Larry,

    As a group, yes, but it is a generalization based on empirical data.
    Obviously, high-performers get “lumped in” with the “not-so-much” and so cannot be predictive of individuals per se, but of group performance, yes.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  17. Dear Andrew –

    Thanks for answering honestly.

    would you think there is anything that could be done to help that situation or it is a lost cause.. and we cannot fix it?

    what I’ve read is that when there are few if any academically proficient peers for others to model – that everyone is content to be like everyone else both academically and behavior.

    Have you heard of Wake County, NC (Raleigh) and how they have dealt with this?

  18. Dear Larry,

    To inundate children with electronic images and the reality of brutality, marital unfaithfulness, being marinated in foul-language, with rapping “anti-heroes,” and scape-goating of Whites as the cause of all that ails Blacks, is a recipe for anarchy. I don’t claim that this list is exhaustive, nor that lower-income Whites are not sliding down a similar, if not yet as drastic slope, but clearly something is deeply wrong. Race-baiting one another will do nothing to improve anyone’s situation, no matter if it coming from White demagogues, or Black. A true to turning to God would greatly assist all involved, something Liberals will not allow in their tax-payer funded schools.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  19. Dear Andrew

    So if the public schools allowed Religion to be practiced – in them – it would help?

    So would you allow these “unruly” kids to attend “choice” schools that taught religion to reform them?

    or would they have to be Boarding schools – where the kids are apart from their parents for the week?

    would you use tax dollars to do that?

  20. Dear Larry,

    I am not sure about these various policy proposals and cannot say that simply “bringing God back into the schools” would make this “100% better overnight,” but clearly there has been a drastic change between the public schools and “mainstream culture” since the 1950s and first part of the ’60s. What we have been doing since then has very obviously destroyed the achievement that the schools of those times accomplished, turning out by and large, polite, helpful, and neighborly citizens able to earn responsible livings.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  21. Dear Andrew –

    we may well agree on some things.. but how do we go about trying to fix …. or is this something we can’t and should not try?

  22. Dear Larry,

    We would be remiss if we did not try to change things. The status quo is unacceptable. But when a whole culture falls apart, it takes some time to rebuild it. And first there needs to be honesty about what is really going on, and how it got there, and no name calling by either side, mine included.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  23. Dear Andrew –

    totally agree… what next?

  24. Andrew,
    Thanks for the history lesson, but it isn’t not quite what I remember from college or my experience in the South. During federal occupation and then reconstruction, a number of blacks took public office and by many accounts, did a pretty decent job. You seem to be trying to make an argument that blacks wanted to be separate, but in fact, they were empowered and shared power with whites to some extent. Only after the feds were gone and the Southern whites had regrouped, did they suddenly decide that segregation laws were needed because blacks were mentally and morally inferior.They were kicked out of power because of poll taxes and restrictions on voter registration such as today.

    Pitching an argument that segregation is what blacks really want is ludicrous, then or now. Sure some may have so spoken. There was even a “Back to Africa” movement, but overall , the ideas that blacks are better off separate and really want it that way is absurd.

    Your views on race mixing being some kind of subversive liberal plot to exterminate true “whites” is simply disgusting.

  25. Dear Larry,

    There would have to be, in order to work together, an agreement on ends, what kind of students and citizens you want. How important is politeness to you? Of respect for authority? Of teaching young people that sex before marriage is a sin against God, their own bodies, and against their neighbor? What methods of mathematics would be used? What methods of reading, and writing? How would Virginia, Southern, and American history be taught? What about world history? How would economics and politics be taught? Would the teaching of the Bible, Old and / or New Testament be included? Would marriage be encouraged in the broader society, without condemning those who remain single? How would inequality be understood, or perhaps, inequalitIES? I.E. is inequality always a sign of injustice? If so, why? If not, why not? Those are a few items that “leapt out” at me.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  26. I’ll stop and let Peter and Andrew go forward.

  27. Dear Peter,

    Have you read Vann Woodward’s _Strange Career of Jim Crow_? He lightly touches over the matter, but he does say that the post-bellum public school were separate, but equally funded. Also, in the history I have read Blacks withdrew from the White-led Churches because they did not want to be subordinate, while Whites often pleaded for them to remain. Prior to Nat Turner’s revolt, Blacks and Whites usually worshiped separately; afterwards, they brought into the White churches, to guard against a repeat of what Turner did. I think that Blacks wanted, and want, legal equality with Whites, but the requirement that it “has” to be rubbing shoulders with White kids in schools was mostly a manufactured thing. The fact that Black schools declined so badly under Jim Crow made them, usually, quite inferior to White ones, and gave a good “push” to wanting to be integrated where the resources were greater. But Vann Woodward emphasises that there was in many states “an in-between time,” between the collapse of Carpetbagger rule and the rise of true White Supremacy. The Carpetbagger rule was marked by gross corruption, and indebtedness. South Carolina’s debt during this period was not repaid until the 1950s. The period of White supremacy while less fiscally extravagant was worse than the antebellum state governments on the score of corruption.

    Let me know when we can agree to disagree on the History portion of reforming schools.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  28. Of course I have read the strange career of Jim Crow.!at a yankee school. Tufts near boston

  29. Statistics. Always the answer to emotional debates like this one. Jim Bacon would like you to believe that there were islands of tolerance in segregationist Virginia. LarrytheG wants you to believe that unchecked racism was a birthright of Ole Virginny. Neither are right.

    By and large racism was the order of the day throughout Virginia and America for hundreds of years. However, there were (small) exceptions.

    On Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the small city of Easton. Long, long ago the always hopeless Virginia state legislature was enabling the persecution of Quakers in Accomack and Northampton counties in Virginia. The always resourceful Quakers had a remedy – they moved up the peninsula into Maryland to avoid the usual crowd of half-wits from Virginia. Many of the Quakers settled in Easton. They made their presence felt in small ways and in bigger ways. One small way was the Quakers rejection of saints. The Catholic settlers of Maryland called a certain bay mislabeled as a river the St Michael’s River. The Quakers would have none of that and renamed the body of water the Miles – which it is called to this day. On a bigger note the Quakers, long before the Civil War, came to believe that slavery was an abomination. Unlike Virginians like George Washington who equivocated the former Virginian Quakers were decisive – you could be a Quaker or your could own slaves but not both. 1820 as I recall. The freed slaves of the Quakers came to inhabit a neighborhood called The Hill. It is the longest continually inhabited community founded by freed slaves in America.

    So, was racism pervasive? Of course.
    Were there exceptions to the pervasive racism rule? Yes.
    Was Caroline County in the 1950s one of the exceptions? I doubt it but maybe.

    • For the record: I made no claim that racism and discrimination did not exist in Carolina County. I stated only that there was social intermingling between the races. By making that observation, I meant to suggest that the intermingling was more pervasive than what existed elsewhere.

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