The concepts of miscegenation revolve around the intermarriages that occurred between non-whites and different races in early American society. The early White-American society opposed the relationships involving individuals from other races, especially the Blacks (Hagan, 2009). Hence, the laws that banned such relationships led to the concepts of miscegenation, popularly called ‘anti-miscegenation laws.’ The regulation of marriage had been placed under state jurisdictions, and the laws varied based on the severity of interracial marriages and the punishment issued on each.
Why did the Anti-Miscegenation Laws Exist?
The laws aimed to preserve racial purity, a famous theme of racial supremacist movements in the US and banned all race-mixing relationships. They claimed that the laws were Constitutional and applied equally to all races, not discriminating against the groups mentioned above. The anti-miscegenation laws discriminated against many groups, including Native Americans, Asians, non-Caucasians, and Blacks. The assemblies in Virginia and Maryland were at the forefront in passing the anti-miscegenation laws since the early 1660s, and other states followed suit in later years.
A case involving Pace v. Alabama 1883 saw the Supreme Court ruling that the anti-miscegenation laws were constitutional. It involved a Black man Tony Pace and a white lady, Mary Cox, who lived in Alabama and had been arrested for sexual activities that violated the state’s statutes. Nevada, for instance, was the first state to prohibit Asians from marrying whites as a way to problematize their competition with whites in the job market, according to Hagan (2009). Another reason for these laws to criminalize interracial marriages was that Black people were deemed intellectually and physically inferior based on the low intelligence-test scores compared to whites.
Classification of the Anti-Miscegenation Laws
The anti-miscegenation laws can be classified as mala in se laws, which acted as bad in themselves because they were prohibited and forbidden behaviors. There was a broad-scale consensus on the mores of prohibition. The laws violated the states’ jurisdictions passed to prevent interracial marriages, inter-mixing or races, and any sexual activities involving two different races in the US. They were viewed as naturally evil in the civilized superior White-American society (Bhusal, 2017). The Anti-miscegenation laws aimed to enforce racial discrimination in marriages and sexual relationships, which criminalized interracial marriages and could be placed under misdemeanors. They usually had a punishment of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months and or a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars. In the case involving Loving v. Virginia 1967, they were sentenced to prison for one year due to their interracial marriage.
Review of the Loving v. Virginia Case
The case involving Loving v. Virginia in 1967 saw a Black woman, Mildred Loving and Richard Loving, a white man, being sentenced to jail because of their interracial marriage. The plaintiffs were charged with violating the anti-miscegenation laws of the state and the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (Newbeck, 2014). Richard was a construction worker in Caroline County, Virginia, fell in love with a Black woman Mildred, and decided to marry despite knowing the state’s laws prohibiting interracial marriages. They went to Washington state to get married and return to Virginia with a certificate showing their legal union, hoping to deter any legal proceedings against them (https://tubitv.com/movies/312544/the-loving-story?start=true).
However, they were apprehended when sheriff’s deputies raided their home. Despite Mildred showing them the certificate, they were charged for violating the Virginia code; that prohibited racially mixed couples from entering marriage contracts in other states coming back to Virginia (https://tubitv.com/movies/312544/the-loving-story?start=true). Punishment would be imprisonment for one to five years. The sheriff indicated that the certificate was not valid and was taken to jail. They pleaded guilty to violating the anti-miscegenation laws in court, and the judge sentenced them to one year in prison.
The sentence gets suspension when the judge orders them to move out of Virginia for at least twenty-five years but returns before it to get their first child delivered by Mildred’s mother, a midwife, leading to their re-arrest. According to Newbeck (2014), they were cleared after their lawyer indicated that he had erroneously advised them to do it. Mildred felt frustrated for being away from home (Virginia) and wrote to the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, for help. The case has the weight to be appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the anti-miscegenation laws against them. The case got wider media attention, and what occurred later was the Supreme Court passing unanimously that the anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. The Lovings later returned to Virginia and settled.
The rhetoric of racism in the US CJS
The history of the US criminal justice system indicates the prevalence of white supremacy in the Supreme Court, using multiple references to indicate numerous accounts of rhetorical usages and racial discrimination. Racism happens without acknowledging the racist actors and becomes perpetuated as a subset of usual suspects, such as the Ku Klux Klan or the Southern Racists (Bhusal, 2017). There is mass incarceration in the United States, violating the rights of the minority groups in the state, and the uptick in crime orchestrated by people in power.
Legislators demand stricter laws, and enforcement officers are ordered to be more brutal to populations within specific zones, ethnicities, and sub-groups. Laws across the state, mainly the South, used criminal justice to pacify the public’s fear, pass Black Codes, and outlaw behaviors that ethnically segregate some groups (Bhusal, 2017). Throughout history, from the Civil war through the Great Depression period, there have been violations of civil liberties, such as denial of citizenships for freed Black, suspended rights to vote, punishment after slavery, convict leasing programs, and other violations like labor practices against minority groups continue to perpetuate racism in the US.
Bhusal, A. (2017). The rhetoric of racism and anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 4(2). https://org/10.22492/ijah.4.2.07
Hagan, F. E. (2009). Crime types and criminals. Mercyhurst College. SAGE.
Newbeck, P. (2014). Loving, Mildred (1939-2008), plaintiff in the Supreme Court case loving v. Virginia (1967). American National Biography Online. https://org/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1501360
Watch free TV & movies online | Stream full length videos | Tubi. (n.d.). Tubi. https://tubitv.com/movies/312544/the-loving-story?start=true