For Loving Day: A Look back at ICW’s Mixed-Race Families in the West Conference

Loving Day is the annual celebration that occurs on June 12 to commemorate the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which functionally legalized interracial marriage on a national scale. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Northwestern’s Keith Woodhouse offered this brief recollection from ICW’s 2013 conference “Mixed-Race Families in the West: What is Lost and What is Gained?”

I spent two great years as a postdoctoral fellow with the Institute on California and the West. Even after my fellowship was over I thought of myself as part of ICW, and lucky for me so did the Institute. Months after I left California I received an invitation to come back and participate in a one-day conference on the experience of multiracial people in the American West and especially California. I jumped at the chance.

Mixed Race Families In The West Conference 2013
The conference approached the multiracial West from several angles: historically, politically, sociologically, and personally. I sat on a panel with three other scholars, and we all talked about our personal experiences with multiracial identities and backgrounds. As the only member of the panel with an Anglo surname, I talked about the subtle and important ways in which racial identity can be hidden and revealed. Because of my name I would occasionally have to go out of my way to make clear that I was part Asian. Doing so could sometimes seem overly assertive or even irrelevant, but to me it was always a way of acknowledging a parent whose racial identity was obscured by my name tag.

I don’t study race and the West in any explicit sense but of course my own identity as part Asian and as a Californian always informs what I do, even if in ways that are not easily apparent. Sometimes race and identity are subterranean, which is why it was all the more fascinating and valuable to spend a day in such rich conversation about these subjects. I think often about the thoughtful and moving stories my co-panelists told, and about how similar stories are all around us, untold, every day.

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