Louisiana judge denies interracial couple marriage license--why are we surprised?

Last week, reports surfaced that Keith Bardwell, a white judge in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, a white woman, and Terence McKay, a black man. The judge, it seems, just doesn't accept the idea of an interracial union, he never has, and, honestly, he probably never will.

"I'm not a racist [Ed note: Heh.]. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. He went on to explain how he has "piles and piles" of black friends. Seriously.

Then, ignoring overwhelming evidence to the contrary--Barack Obama, Derek Jeter, and Tiger Woods to name just a few--Bardwell shared that his main problem with mixed-race nuptials is the offspring they produce: "I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," he also told the AP. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."


Since last week's media explosion, all sorts of folks have been (rightfully) outraged, and calls for Bardwell's resignation are mounting. Those demanding he step down or be removed by the Louisiana Judiciary Committee include Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, the NAACP, and The American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, according the New York Daily News, Bardwell is currently being sued by one of the four interracial couples he refused to marry.

Commenting on the situation, Bill DeBlasio, a Democratic politician from New York and the patriarch of his own interracial family, had this to say:

"In a time where the American people made history by electing President Barack Obama , this blatant act of bigotry represents a disturbing return to racial inequalities of the past. Even worse, it sends a heinous message that there is something wrong with families, like mine, which are created from different backgrounds. No one practicing racism should be in any position of public trust."

DeBlasio has a seriously good point, obviously, as does everyone who has spoken out against the Louisiana judge. Bardwell's blatant racism is disturbing, outdated, and repulsive, sure, but is it really shocking? Regardless of the fact that America has a black president and, over the past few decades, we've made major strides toward eradicating discrimination and bigotry, racism still lurks in all kinds of corners of our society. Whether the evidence is overt, such as the rise in racially-based hate crimes against Hispanics, or more subtle, like the ridiculous, racially-charged Birthers movement, it's pretty obvious Americans have a long way to go before we're a nation that truly embraces all ethnicities.

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter
Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter

Remember that it was just 42 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban against whites marrying nonwhites. On June 12, 1967, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter ( the Virginia couple who filed the suit, and who had spent a year in jail for their intermarriage--JAILED for marrying a person you love!), were returned to their home and allowed to remain wedded in peace. After this landmark case, interracial unions became legal in all states, but weirdness surrounding mixed-race romance stuck around: Consider the fact that the South Carolina school Bob Jones University only dropped their ban on interracial dating in 2000. Just nine years ago.

Now, I firmly believe that men like Keith Bardwell should be removed from positions of authority. But, I don't think this will come close to solving our generations-old racism problem.

Why? Perhaps the best explanation comes from the Louisiana judge himself, who told CNN: "It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong"

I mean, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, right? Especially when he really loves and believes in the old ones.
CBS News, CNN,SF Gate