Friday, March 18, 2011

Young Love, Marriage and Tipping Points

Our younger grandson has been accepted to several colleges in different parts of the county – two in East Coast cities, one in the Midwest, yet another in California – and now must decide which he will attend. His girlfriend attends college in one of the Eastern cities, but I have no idea how that will influence his decision. And this isn’t about my grandson, who is quite capable of choosing a college without his grandma’s input.

Rather, I was reminded of another young couple, who were profiled in the Washington Post sometime back in the Nineties, to the best of my recollection. She was valedictorian of TC Williams High School in Alexandria; he was salutatorian and they were very much committed to their relationship. But they had also been admitted to their first choice colleges – one to Stanford, the other to a top-ranked Ivy League college on the East Coast. The article took up some two pages of newsprint, with lengthy interviews with these high school sweethearts about the choice they would have to make, and was illustrated with a number of photos of them.

But it wasn’t their dilemma between young love and the best college for each that struck me. It was this: The Post didn’t say a word about their race or ethnicity, but the photos were of a racially mixed couple. She was white, he African-American.

And I realized, as I stared at the photos, that here in Virginia -- the state that in 1958 arrested a similarly mixed couple for the “crime” of marrying, and fought for its law for nearly ten years, till the US Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriages in 1967 -- a tipping point had been reached. It was possible for an interracial couple to be accepted by family, friends and classmates, and even celebrated in a major American newspaper. Yes!!!

Saddened as I was by the failure of our neighboring state of Maryland to pass same-sex marriage this year, I was heartened to see in today’s online news that opinion polls show that, for the first time, a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. Let’s hope that this tipping point in public attitudes spreads to every state, including my still backward state of Virginia.

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