Every once in a while someone comes along who simultaneously reminds us of how far we’ve come with respect to race relations, and how far we have to go. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who refused to marry a white woman and black man out of concern for their future mixed-race children.
As if Bardwell’s initial refusal wasn’t bad enough, he now tells us that he stands by his initial decision: “It’s kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven’t done wrong,” he told CNN affiliate WAFB on Saturday.
Bardwell apparently isn’t aware of the 1967 Supreme Court Decision (Loving vs. Virginia) in which miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional, a rather unsung landmark decision that has gone under-appreciated until now. This begs the question of how educated Louisiana Justices of the Peace must be. Moreover, JPs, judges and ministers are not empowered to marry only those people that they believe will raise happy, successful children who will be free from discrimination. Parents are expected to help their children meet life’s challenges and overcome them, whatever their ethnicity.
Those who would like to wring an apology from Bardwell are doomed to disappointment. Bardwell represents the old school racist who is comfortable with his racism even as he denies it exists. While removing him from office is essential, if only to protect his parish from the expense of civil rights lawsuits, it will not have any impact on Bardwell other than economic. However, one wonders how many other mixed couples he has turned away and why it has taken so long for this practice to come to light. Already embarrassed, Lousiana now has some ‘splainin’ to do.