A mere four years after it was deemed legal by the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court, my parents entered into an interracial marriage. A Gallup Poll showed that when the high court made its decision, 48% of Americans still believed it should be a criminal offense that my parents marry. While my parents didn’t tie the knot on American soil, my mother is a born-and-bred Minnesotan/Texan; this culture is a part of her and eventually, would be of my father. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to reconcile the stark cliff between her love and her culture.
Coming from two cultures had its advantages. In the Philippines, the groom’s family pays for the wedding; in the U.S., the bride’s family traditionally foots the bill. Thus, for my parents, both families vied for the right to pay. Not a bad deal.
On the flip side, upon hearing about the upcoming nuptials, one of my mother’s aunts told my maternal grandmother that my father would never be welcome at her house and that she wouldn’t ever touch the children.
“It was just a matter of the fear of the unknown,” my mother says. “When you children came along, she loved you and it was immediate.”
My grandmother was wise not to tell my mother about the aunt’s proclamation until years later. My mother is glad because she’s pretty sure she would have “reacted.” And behaving rashly has consequences (click here).
“Today, interracial marriages are all over the place. I look at that and think, ‘it’s so different,’” my mother tells me. To make it through the tough times back then, her family was an important support system. Help in times of need is crucial, see here and here.
Throughout human history we’ve spent a lot of energy and might fighting the unknown, the ‘other.’ As we near the celebration of our nation’s birth, the Fourth of July, I reflect on how the flag is often invoked in the name of nativism, as if pride in this country requires shunning those who are not from here.
I cannot and will not agree that being proud of being an American means you must be of a certain background, a certain color, a certain faith. As my mother believes, I also believe: “We are so much stronger because of immigrants.”
Meanwhile, some people seem ashamed of being an American and avoid adorning themselves with the stars and stripes. To this I say, let’s take back patriotism. Our country, for all its faults, is a modern marvel and continues to be a grand human experiment in self-rule.
This Fourth, I encourage you to be full of pride about being an American, to fly the red, white, and blue because you believe in a country that keeps moving forward — not perfectly, because humans aren’t perfect — but always in search of that which is based on “liberty and justice for all.”