Last weekend saw the 54th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriages in the United States. Before that case, interracial marriages were banned in most states.
The Virginia law that forbade interracial marriages was part of the Progressive Era’s eugenics drive. People claimed the mantle of “following the science” and codified racism in state and federal law.
This point isn’t my opinion on these things; it’s what Virginia said in a 2001 resolution from its state’s legislature apologizing, condemning, and showing remorse for those laws. There were two statutes involved, both based on the progressive eugenics movement.
The Virginia legislature said: “1924 Virginia passed two eugenics-related laws, the first, the Racial Integrity Act, defined a white person as having no trace of black blood and made it illegal for whites and non-Caucasians to marry.” Further, “the second 1924 measure permitted involuntary sterilization, the most egregious outcome of the lamentable eugenics movement in the Commonwealth.”
Why did they do this? The Virginia legislature said that a “regrettable aspect of the eugenics laws was their use as a respectable, ‘scientific’ veneer to cover activities of those who held blatantly racist views.”
This legislation was built upon “the now-discredited pseudoscience of eugenics was based on theories first propounded in England by Francis Galton, the cousin, and disciple of famed biologist Charles Darwin.”
Perhaps most telling, “the goal of the ‘science’ of eugenics was to improve the human race by eliminating what the movement’s supporters considered hereditary disorders or flaws through selective breeding and social engineering.” In the end, this pseudoscience was nothing more than codified racism.
The Virginia legislature noted that “under this act, those labeled ‘feebleminded,’ including the ‘insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded or epileptic’ could be involuntarily sterilized, so that they would not produce similarly disabled offspring.” Virginia deplored this behavior in 2001, saying that it caused “incalculable human damage.”
The arch-leftist progressive jurist of the early 20th Century, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, praised this exact aspect of eugenics laws. In one of the most evil Supreme Court decisions ever authored, Buck v. Bell (1924), Holmes wrote of a similar eugenics-based law:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. […] Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
And while the Loving case ended in a positive outcome, Buck v. Bell has never been expressly overturned by the Supreme Court. Eugenic sterilizations done without consent were performed well into the 1960s in America.
Eugenics was one of the critical pieces of the progressive movement of the early 20th Century. And after the Second World War, the ramifications of those ideas continued to reverberate. “At the Nuremberg Trials, Nazi defendants cited Buck v. Bell in their own defense,” according to Encyclopedia Virginia.
I go through this because the legacy of the Loving decision was as much about deconstructing and removing progressive racism from the law as it was anything else. Racists of all kinds of political persuasions supported those laws, obviously. But it was the progressive left that made it a reality in the early 20th Century.
That history and legacy are also why it shouldn’t be surprising that the current progressive push shares similarities with contemporary racists. Comedians have mocked the similarities between the “woke” left and racists for a few years now. But those similarities exist for a reason. Progressivism was based on and founded on racial identity being the core of everything.
Progressivism never escaped its racist past, and that racial understanding of the world now informs the woke movement. That’s why you still find op-eds in The New York Times from woke leftists talking about how things like interracial dating are somehow bad now. They have become the thing they claim to oppose.
Celebrating Loving Day is an excellent way to help push back against this form of woke-ism. Interracial marriages are fundamentally good things for America and prove that we are bigger than our skin color. It’s not just that we can live with and among all races, but we can take that next step and find true love and happiness, and experience long and fulfilling marriages.
Loving proves progressivism wrong. It’s good to remember that, celebrate it, and protect its wisdom as we deal with a resurgence of progressivism on the Democratic side of the aisle.