The Loving Story
By Audrey Valbuena
We might feel as though civil rights was a movement of the past, but as The Loving Story reminds us, the past is still very much a part of our present.
As a part of the Block Museum’s If You Remember, I’ll Remember exhibition, The Loving Story invites viewers to travel through Mildred and Richard Loving’s story of love and strife. Having instigated the Loving v. Virginia lawsuit that invalidated the interracial marriage ban, this couple faced a hoard of judgement and trouble as the law and their community attempted to break their “unnatural” love apart.
The film opens on a family of four, with a mother caring for her child. The family is mixed, the mother black and the father white, but the graininess of the old black and white film makes the distinction between skin tones more subtle — until a close up reveals that the small child’s skin is much lighter than her mother’s. Only then is it clear that this family is the Lovings.
Through a series of interviews that interweave past and present, viewers learn the story of the Lovings: how they met, fell in love, and subsequently were placed under arrest. The story is broken into sections: the arrest, the return, the love, and the victory. We learn that, after she was arrested and forced to realize the depth of America’s racial divide, Melinda Loving writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to explain, and hopefully aleve, her situation. His direct response to her letter leads to the beginning of the Loving v. Virginia court case, which gained support from blacks and whites across the nation. They marched on Washington, much like the crowds who gathered during the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of the legalization of gay marriage in 2015.
However, what struck me more than their story, were the small clips, from then and now, describing the culture of rural Virginia. I was shocked when a well-dressed white woman appeard on-screen to explain that people should love and be happy in their skins, and that she was only happy to be white because her parents practiced segregation. This horrifyingly cheerful exclamation was followed immediately by scenes of the KKK. But not the masked, unidentifiable, inhuman KKK members we are used to seeing. Rather, these shots showed KKK members with their hoods off - seemingly normal, smiling humans, except for the fact that they disapproved of an interracial marriage simply because “god made us, and he made us separate.”
The story of the Lovings is inspiring: their love, strength and persistence is unmatched. But I value this film for its stark reality, for depicting what people so often turn their eyes from, the views people that know about in theory, but are afraid to see. It puts on-screen real thoughts from real people, and the reality that these ideas were uttered in a time when film was advanced enough to capture it all on tape is a terrible truth we forget to face. Though the past is behind us, the remnants of it are not far behind, still a part of our recent human history.
Though the screening of The Loving Story has passed, the Block Museum’s If You Remember, I’ll Remember exhibition continues until June 18th. It features installations by Kristine Aono, Shan Goshorn, Samantha Hill, McCallum & Tarry, Dario Robleto, and Marie Watt, in conjunction with screenings of independent documentary films like The Loving Story. This compilation seeks to demonstrate that the connection between past and present resonates now more than ever, as our increasingly progressive society continually faces regressive attitudes and actions in our political and daily life. The moment we forget the struggles of the past is the moment we become apathetic and take for granted what so many lacked before.