“Loving” and Fearing Race Relations
Guest commentary by Billie Wade
The movie Loving chronicles the battle of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving who defied the laws of the State of Virginia in 1958 by marrying. I attended the movie the day after Thanksgiving with fourteen friends. I felt a bit apprehensive as I did not know if protesters had planned a demonstration. To my gratitude, none were present.
I have tried living as if race is not an issue, as if I suffer only the same vagaries of life as everyone else. The result is I lived with my head in the sand even as I got kicked in the rear. I pretended all was well and I was okay, especially at work. But I wasn’t okay. I hid the authentic me. Race, though, often is an issue, the stain on the wall no one wants to discuss. When race became a blatant matter, I vented out of earshot of those who might retaliate. Anger and frustration are emotions of luxury I cannot always afford. The price of these emotions is high. Some have paid with their lives.
The movie saddened and depressed me, reminding me of the depths of hatred based on skin color. I have tended to avoid entering the arena of race relations, although African American showcases my most dominant feature—the color of my skin. The topic is difficult to broach regardless of where one stands on the various issues related to racial equality and inclusion. People are never sure where a discussion might lead. Anger? Rage? Violence? Even well-meaning supporters tread lightly in their efforts to show their loyalty. Others have confronted me with cajoling, bullying, discounting, ridicule, and abandonment, their voices laden with accusations, epithets, and innuendo.
The movie evoked fear in me. Today, in 2016, I am not safe. I never know if or when I will be attacked, verbally or physically. I fear for my son who gets off work at 10:30 p.m. I fear for my niece, living in Kentucky with her three children in a town where they are the only black people. I fear for my friends who show solidarity and support.
The movie humbled me for the struggle the Lovings so courageously fought. I am now considering ways I can participate in advocacy, but I am no Martin Luther King, Jr. I have to start by dipping my toe in the water at the shallow end of the pool. I can dialogue with friends. I am blessed with great friends, people who nurture me when I need to be vulnerable.
The conclusion of the movie offered me a glimmer of hope that this nation can begin to turn in the direction of equality and inclusion, although recent events threaten that glimmer. I want to believe hatred is spewed by a minority, although that minority seems to be growing. I want to believe in the good of the human spirit as a default, although the merit is sometimes difficult to see. I want to believe in progress, although regression sometimes seems to dominate. Many people are fighting the battle in their own way, and I am appreciative.
The movie stirred a lot within me. My feelings and emotions are emerging gradually, and I will process them for some time.
Billie Wade, retiree, is a kind, compassionate, gregarious introvert whose primary interests are African American race relations, women, LGBTQ, seniors and how we are all affected by life’s vagaries. She is experienced in human resources employee services administration, chemical dependency counseling and magazine publishing editorial assistance. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people.
Thank you for this commentary, Billie. By your act of writing, you bear witness, and that is so important to do these days. Your voice is important.
Maureen, I appreciate your encouragement and support. I endeavor to continue exploring the ways in which whatever happens to any of us happens to all of us.