“Race” is Still a Four-Letter Word

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on July 30, 2007

Imagine a day in America when two people can get married and there’s absolutely no drama about their race or ethnicity. We probably won’t see it in our lifetimes. Perhaps some generation will.

Ian Johnson and Chrissy Popadics are probably longing for that day. The two were married on July 28 in Boise, Idaho despite threats of violence. In some parts of America, their marriage was extremely controversial. Why would anyone care about the young Boise State University running back and the cheerleader he fell in love with? Johnson proposed to Popadics in front of countless fans after he scored the winning points against the Oklahoma Sooners and won the Fiesta Bowl. It was the stuff of soap operas or Harlequin romances.

No one would have said anything negative about the unusual proposal or the couple, except for the fact that Johnson is black and Popadics is white. In America, that’s still a national issue. Many people like to think that the country has evolved past caring about whom we sleep with and marry, but it obviously hasn’t.

It’s been exactly forty years since interracial marriage was illegal in America. It’s hard to believe it ever was. In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down once and for all the laws in 16 states that restricted interracial couplings.

America isn’t unique in having had anti-miscegenation laws. Humans have often established prohibitions against marrying someone who was different in some way. Many cultures have declared it a taboo or a violation of law to take a partner from certain other ethnic groups. In modern-day America, people of the same gender still can’t tie the knot. It’s all so ridiculous.

Not that I believe in marriage. The state shouldn’t be in the business of legitimatizing anyone’s relationship. As long as there’s going to be marriage, though, the state shouldn’t discriminate, whether that person is a different ethnicity or the same gender. Let consenting adults choose their partners.

When I was growing up, Papa always said, “Marry an Italian girl.” Of course, he meant a girl from the south of Italy. A paesana. No other ethnicity would do. That’s why he freaked out when my oldest brother left his Italian wife for a Polish woman. It wasn’t just the fact that he got a divorce.

My southern Italian Papa was no different than a lot of people in America today. They look at Ian Johnson and Chrissy Popadic and see people of two different “races.” They ignore the biological and genetic facts that there is only one race.

All of us originally come from the same place: Africa. All else is social construct: The flags we wave, the lines we draw in the sand to designate countries, the religions we fight and die for, the cultures we develop, the languages we speak and foods we claim as our own.

We can never escape our sameness, no matter how hard we try.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class, atheist queer performer and writer with a webpage: www.avicollimecca.com

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