Sunday, June 13, 2021

Among the anniversaries of systemic racism ...

It's been interesting during Iowa's recently completed legislative term to watch Republican politicians snarl and yap like kicked curs about The New York Times' 1619 Project, developed by journalist and scholar Nikole Hannah-Jones, Waterloo native and 1994 graduate of Waterloo West High School.

That project shifts the institution of slavery and the contributions and experiences of enslaved people from the margins of U.S. history, where many white folks would prefer that they remain, squarely into the center.

I got to thinking about that yesterday, the anniversary of the June 12, 1967, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia that once and for all declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, in effect clearing these bans from the books in 16 states, most in the South.

The case involved Mildred and Richard Loving (left), sentenced in Virginia to a year in prison during 1958 because they had married.

The question arises, then --- did Iowa ever have an anti-miscegenation statute? And the answer is "yes," although briefly. The Iowa Territorial Legislature of 1839 passed an anti-miscegenation law and it remained on the books until 1851, when the first Code of Iowa was formulated --- and it was not included.

As the map (from Wikipedia) indicates, only nine of the 50 United States (the gray ones) have not had such legislation at one time or another on their books --- Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii and Alaska. Green indicates states where such laws were repealed before 1858; yellow, repealed 1948-1967; and red, forced off the books by the Supreme Court decision of 1967.

Other than the United States from its inception until 1967, only two other nations have made such determined efforts to ban interracial marriage --- Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa. And that's among the reasons why the 1619 Project and scholarly efforts similar to it are important as, in the 21st century, we struggle to understand and correct the effects of systemic racism.

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