Spirit in Action: Interracial Love, Marriage, Hope

by Margaret Hazlewood and Brett Matthews

Love is our theme this month. It is also Black History Month.

Black History Month has grown in importance to me since I started producing this brochure. It gives me the opportunity to dig into black history and uncover information about incredible black individuals for the most part unknown to me. It is wonderful to be able to share this information with you.

This year, for me, it is not just about uncovering the history of black individuals. Brett and I are looking for hope – in how we approach diversity. In how we snuff out the fires of current forces that are threatening the stability of our communities. There are some positive trends in the sea of the racial divide, and this month we will share one with you: interracial marriage.

When two people choose to share their lives together across racial boundaries, they experience the different racialized destinies of the other in their own lives. The experience transforms them, and often changes their relatives and friends, too.

According to the Canadian national census, there were more than 360,000 mixed-race couples in Canada in 2011: 4.6% of all couples. These unions are growing at a quickening pace, up from only 3.1% in 2001 and 2.6% in 1991.

Kelly Peterson, the white wife of jazz master Oscar Peterson, produced a beautiful tribute album after his death called Oscar, with Love. Chirlane Irene McCray, a black writer, poet and communications professional, is married to Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York since 2014.

It was only in June 1958, with the arrest and imprisonment of newlyweds Mildred Loving and her white husband Richard Loving under the State of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, that laws banning interracial marriage – in force at various times in 41 US states – were challenged. At the time of their arrest, only 4% of Americans accepted black-white unions. The Lovings, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, appealed to the courts. The US Supreme Court ruled laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional in 1967. By 2015 a Gallop Poll found American approval of black-white marriages at an all-time high of 87%. But the battle is not over: a 2013 Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family sparked so many racist remarks on YouTube that comments had to be disabled.

Like the US, Canada still has ancient prejudices to overcome. In a large 2009 poll, Angus Reid found surprisingly low rates of acceptance for religious differences. But love is proving to be a potent solvent. While only 28% of respondents reported a favourable view of Islam, 39% could accept one of their children marrying a Muslim. In other words, our respect for each other’s personal choices can transcend other prejudices.

We’re in an era of increased tensions and divisions between the peoples of the earth. But love is powerful. If people of different races can find their way to each other, if love can dissolve the lines that divide us by race, religion, nationality and increasingly partisanship, then there is hope.

My name is Margaret and this article was co-written with my husband Brett. We are an interracial couple and members of Neighbourhood.