It’s hard to turn on your television these days (or your computer or phone) without being inundated with further “proof” that we are a nation divided. After all, there are the violent clashes at Trump rallies, between social justice activists and the police, endless verbal clashes dominating our political discourse—not to mention just about everything that happens on Twitter. With Republican nominee Donald Trump recently lobbing his latest verbal grenade, alleging an American jurist of Mexican ethnicity is unfit to adjudicate matters involving him, and the resulting furor, it’s hard not to feel as though our country is falling apart – along racial and ideological lines.
And yet in the midst of all of this division has emerged incontrovertible proof that Americans are actually becoming more united and that regardless of what happens in the presidential election come November, Donald Trump has already lost. I don’t just mean in terms of his reputation (which I believe will have a hard time recovering among mainstream Americans after this election) but in terms of his efforts to define what constitutes a true American. I hate to break it to Mr. Trump (actually it thrills me to break it to him and anyone else who thinks like him) but not only do people of color like the jurist he critiqued represent the future of America, but mixed race families – in which people of color marry into families just like Mr. Trump’s, represent the fastest growing demographic within America.
Based on the numbers, in about a decade or so Donald Trump will likely find himself no longer trying to defend his offensive comments about Judge Curiel to befuddled members of media and the GOP, but to a Latino relative over Thanksgiving dinner. This thought is not only cause for amusement but reflection and celebration.
Today, June 12th marks the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision, which declared laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. The last name of the couple at the heart of the story, “Loving,” sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true Hollywood twists, but Loving was the real family name of Mildred, a black woman, and Richard, a white man, who took their battle to have their union recognized and decriminalized all the way to the Supreme Court. The aptly titled, “Loving,” a film about their landmark case screened at the Cannes Film Festival last month, and Saturday marks the celebration of Loving Day nationwide.
Since the Loving decision mixed race couples have begun to transform our cultural and political landscape. Consider this: In 1961 Sammy Davis, was asked not to participate in the inauguration of his longtime friend John F. Kennedy because of his marriage to white Swedish actress May Britt. This was the same year that President Barack Obama would be born to a white mother and black Kenyan father.
More than 30 years later when then Republican Senator and future Secretary of Defense William Cohen began a relationship with African American journalist Janet Langhart he said he had supporters who expressed concern it might damage his career. The two married in 1996. They remained one of the few mixed race couples in the political sphere, but in recent years the families of politicians have begun to more closely resemble the families of a greater number of Americans.
The most high profile example is probably Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who is white and married to Chirlane McCray who is African American. Unlike Cohen’s experience two decades ago, McCray and the couple’s two children were seen as assets to de Blasio’s quest to lead one of the country’s most racially diverse cities. (A campaign ad starring de Blasio’s son Dante was seen as particularly crucial in establishing de Blasio as a political ally of communities of color.) But the de Blasios are not the only high profile, racially diverse family in American politics. Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina who is of Indian descent, Congresswoman Mia Love who is black and California Attorney General and current Senate candidate Kamala Harris who is of black and Indian descent all have white spouses. Not only have their unions not drawn criticism – they’ve barely been seen as worthy of coverage at all, because they are no longer seen as particularly unique.
With studies showing younger Americans even more open to mixed race unions (more than half of millennials have dated outside of their race) families like these are likely to become the norm. Sen. John McCain’s son Jack recently took to social media to blast critics of Old Navy who decried the brand’s use of a mixed race couple in a recent ad. How exactly did he respond to these critics? By posting pictures with his wife Renee, who is black. And former House Speaker John Boehner recently welcomed a black son-in-law into his family.
Why do such unions matter? Well for one thing it’s impossible to love someone and not have empathy for his or her pain. Reading an article about racial profiling or discussing it with someone is far different from discovering your son-in-law or granddaughter were victims of inequitable treatment. As people of different races move into one another’s families it is inevitable that in many of these instances there will be growth in empathy and understanding. Think of it as a cultural exchange program on steroids. It is worth noting that Mitt Romney has emerged as one of Donald Trump's fiercest critics, despite accepting his endorsement four years ago. Romney has refused to endorse Donald Trump this year and recently accused the mogul of triggering "trickle down racism." A recent profile alleged Romney became so passionate he teared up over the subject. One major change between 2012 Romney and 2016 Romney? He now has a black grandson.
David French, a writer for the National Review who was being mentioned as a possible conservative contender against Donald Trump, said he was harassed by Trump supporters, some of whom singled out his adopted daughter who is Ethiopian. Targeting anyone’s child is disgusting and cowardly. But it does provide some insight into perhaps the best way to protest Trump’s increasingly culturally divisive rhetoric. First, we should all do our part to see that America truly becomes the melting pot it claims to be – the America of Donald Trump’s nightmare -- by either welcoming other races into our own families or making sure to show love and support to families that do. But perhaps most of all instead of hoping he is defeated, we should hope that one day soon Donald Trump will find himself welcoming a part Mexican, part black Muslim into his family.
If his head doesn’t explode from the experience then his heart might just grow a little, and he might become a better, more loving human being.