Ian Reifowitz for
WN: The article highlighted is immensely hopeful! An emphatic Amen!
Editor’s Note, Nov. 7, 2020: Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff are officially going to be the nation’s first Second Family.
As you may have heard, Sen. Kamala Harris
wouldWILL be a historic vice president. Most attention has rightly been focused on the barriers she’ll break as the first woman, the first African American, and the first Indian American to hold that office. There is, however, another barrier of importance—one that before the Civil Rights era would have been just as unthinkable—relating to Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who is the potential first Second Gentleman. They couldwill be the first Second Family built around an interracial marriage, as well as the first to include a non-Christian spouse—Emhoff is Jewish.
I want to talk about both of these breakthroughs, but given our country’s long and sordid history with Black-white unions, let’s start with that aspect. It’s mind-blowing to think that only 53 years have passed since the Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, declared unconstitutional the laws banning interracial marriages that many states still had on the books. Just 19 years before that, in 1948, California—Harris’ home state—became the first one since Reconstruction to strike down its own state’s anti-miscegenation law on constitutional grounds.
Even now, while most Americans (83%) find interracial marriage “morally acceptable,” there remains a segment that disagrees: 15% of Latinos, 17% of whites, and 18% of African Americans find it “morally wrong.” Unsurprisingly, Democrats are more supportive than Republicans by 16%. In the half-century since the Lovings won their case, interracial and interethnic marriages have increased from 3% to 17% of all unions. We have come a long way on accepting and embracing love across various kinds of boundaries. Nevertheless, I would imagine that anyone belonging to an interracial family would feel something uniquely powerful watching
Sen.Vice President-elect Harris be sworn in as vice president of the United States, with her white husband beside her.
Another historic aspect of the
would-besoon-to-be Second Family is more specific to Harris’ husband, who is, as previously noted, not only white, but Jewish. I write from the perspective of my own experience as a Jew and my knowledge of the Jewish community, but my sense is that Jewish Americans overall, and progressive Jews in particular, are very excited about the prospect of a Jewish Second Gentleman. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of Jews consistently vote Democratic, making them the second most reliable ethnic or religious group for Democrats after Black Americans, so it’s safe to say that most Jews are in fact very excited.
Beyond what makes them special as people, the Harris-Emhoff family calls forth the long and rich relationship between Jewish and Black Americans—a relationship I recently discussed in more detail. Jewish support for and alliance with African Americans during the civil rights movement and beyond has meant the relationship has, overall, been a fruitful and productive one that has advanced justice and equality in our country. However, there have unfortunately been some difficult moments as well. Seeing this beautiful couple at the highest levels of our democracy should hopefully help remind members of both groups of the most positive aspects of Black-Jewish cooperation.
Please click on: Historic Milestone