Global Families Cushioning Globalization: from Loving v. Virginia to Every Day
My parents married in 1962 — my mother a German immigrant from a Lutheran family, my father a New Yorker of Jewish descent. In Germany, my maternal grandfather — though not a Nazi himself — was an aeronautical engineer and test pilot for an aircraft firm that served the Nazi regime. My paternal grandfather was an observant Jew. Despite these differences, my parents’ relationship has thrived; it’s their 55th anniversary.
Their example influenced my brother and me.
Global integration is personal for our family. In 2004, I married a woman from New Delhi whom I’d met in Connecticut. Her family is Muslim. Months later, my brother married a woman he’d met in India; she’s Hindu.
My wife’s family had sought an arranged marriage for her, and not everyone accepted our union. Three uncles have yet to acknowledge it.
Still, most of her family embraced me, while she was welcomed here. Our wedding combined Indian and Western dress, Indian food, poems by Emerson and Tagore. We had receptions in New Haven and New Delhi.
I believe that a happy consequence — and a cushion — of globalization will be more global families. Call this intimate diplomacy. Countries including the U.S. and Canada have long prospered through immigration. Further weaving together the planet’s continents and citizens should be our aim. Love and marriage — the deepest forms of trade and investment — complete the tapestry.
Particular cultures can both endure and create fruitful blends; indeed, genetic diversity has biological as well as social value. It’s certainly not new. As historian Charles Mann observes, “Few things are more sublime or characteristically human than the cross-fertilization of cultures.”
It’s five decades since the Supreme Court ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that laws against interracial marriage were “odious to a free people.” Mr. and Mrs. Loving prevailed, and with them the cause of progress. According to the Pew Research Center, “In 2015, 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried.”
Loving versus intolerance is God’s way, whatever your religion. Love redeems, and it renews. From literature like Mixed to law professors such as Randall Kennedy and Sheryll Cashin, there is increasing documentation of the complexities and power of this historical trend.
My wife and I have two children, who are among the surging population of multiethnic, interfaith Americans embodying this country’s ideals of opportunity. Last year, to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, my wife had to submit years of U.S. tax returns as well as pass a civics test that emphasizes the Constitution as the highest law of the land.
Our kids celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid and the Hindu festival Diwali. They experience Christmas dinners and Hanukah parties. Their grandmothers have spoken to them in Hindi/Urdu and German, as well as English. Their generation will see the flourishing of what philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah calls “rooted cosmopolitanism” — an alloy stronger than any contrived cultural purity.
Of course, racism and bigotry persist and won’t yield easily, as hate crimes reveal. Some politicians continue to exploit invidious sentiments, not to mention violence. Still, there is enough hatred and terror on earth.
Love is a powerful corrective, a force for freedom. I believe its advance can help bring not only people — but also peoples — together toward peace.
A version of this essay appeared in 2006 at This I Believe. Other articles address topics ranging from Indian Americans, immigration, refugees, and the proposed “travel ban” in historical context, to new voters, citizenship, men’s role in defending reproductive choice, men and the campus climate for women, college sports, history and public lands, Gandhi’s legacy, marching in peaceful protest, U.S. politics of the last two decades, and the Obama generation. Twitter: @JosiahBrownCT