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.
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.