By Zeinab Said
The Newark Museum and the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience welcomed Dr. Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
Kennedy received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his law degree from Yale. Among other achievements, he served as a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court.
During the event, there was a screening of “The Loving Story,” a documentary based on the 1967 Loving v. the Commonwealth of Virginia case. The case was brought by Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a black woman, who were prosecuted for marrying each other.
The Lovings were sentenced to one year in prison in Virginia for violating the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage, better known as “anti-miscegenation” laws, which Dr. Kennedy introduced in the gathering. “Anti,” he said, “means against; miscēre, is Latin for mixing, and genus, also Latin, means people [or race].”
After the screening, Dr. Kennedy took to the stage and very bluntly reminded the audience that 1967 was not long ago, and even to this day, “multi-racial couples still face discrimination.”
Clarifying a common misconception of racial discrimination in the U.S., he continued to say that this did not only occur in the in the South since, giving one example, the term “anti-miscegenation” was born in New York City in 1864.
Political science major and junior at Rutgers University-Newark, Omar Saad, commented, “Throughout the documentary I was appalled to learn that this law existed, being a mixed child myself. I was, however, engaged throughout the process.” He continued “I walked out, having learned something new, something that’s often not taught in classrooms. Although the topic was enraging, the event itself was quite pleasant.”
Many other audience members voiced their thoughts to Kennedy as he accepted questions and comments. With the event coming to a close, Mr. Kennedy projected, “We have been fighting a war against racism for decades, so why in the world would we beset laws to prohibit interracial marriage?”
Throughout his speech, Dr. Kennedy, rather confidentially, emphasized the growing fact that, for too long, the Supreme Court has been given “too much credit.” Using that as a platform, he added that it is a “transformation of public opinion in which everyone here [in the room] can participate” that will make a change.
It became interpretable from Kennedy’s speech and the audience’s personal anecdotes that perhaps the events which surrounded the Civil Rights Movement continue to sink their claws into our realm of existence today.