On January 20, Kamala Harris made history when she raised her right hand and was sworn in as the first Black, South Asian and woman vice president.
Mike and Edye Evans Hyde watched the moment intently.
“She’s breaking the glass ceiling and everything, but for me personally it’s like I say, ‘Well, why not?’” Mike Evans said. “You know it’s a huge thing for other folks, depending on where they are. But, I mean, I could see my wife as being vice president.”
Edye laughed out loud.
“You’re funny,” she said while sitting next to her husband during a Zoom interview last week.
Simultaneously that day Kamala’s husband Doug Emhoff made history as well. She and Doug became the first interracial couple to represent the White House, one of the highest and most visible offices in the country.
“This is the way we are supposed to be. This country is really full of those types of couples [and] interracial kids,” Edye said. “Not even Black and white, but Asian and Black, and Asian and white; I mean it’s the normal thing.”
For Mike and Edye, it’s been the norm for decades. He’s White and from Grand Rapids. Edye is a Black American from Tennessee, who moved up to GR in the 1960s. They met at a bar while they were in college. He was in a band, and they needed a lead singer when their regular one got sick. So, Edye filled in, and they’ve been together ever since.
“Through all of these years that we’ve been together, you know people say, ‘Well have you experienced any incidents of discrimination or whatever?'" Mike recalled. “I always said our biggest problem that we had is we didn’t really have very much to say. Part of it is, I kind of chalk it up to the fact that when Edye and I were together or getting married, most of my male friends were very envious of me.”
Edye laughed out loud again.
They’ve been married for 42 years and have two kids. Since they were a part of the local music community, which Edye described as a ‘bubble,’ they were accepted and shielded from a lot of the racism during that time, the couple said.
However, they feel the tension more now than they ever did in the past.
“You know, for the last four years our dinner tables have been fraught with differences,” said psychologist Dr. Shaifali Sandhya. ”I hope that we will use this as an opportunity to bring in change and to understand folks that are different from us.”
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 17 percent of newlyweds were intermarried, which is a significant jump from just three percent back in 1967. That year, Mildred and Richard Loving won their Supreme Court case that made interracial dating and marriage legal.
Dr. Sandhya, who counsels biracial and intercultural couples, said she hopes that Kamala and Doug’s relationship will lead to healthier conversations at dinner tables everywhere.
“What does it mean to be seen through the lens of skin and color and race in America today? What does it mean to be perceived as, you know, as the other?” Dr. Sandhya said during a Zoom interview. “What does it mean for a small community to extend belongingness to people they perceive as foreigners and those that they see as different from them? So, I hope that our vice president will open up this opportunity for us to encourage meaningful conversations, acceptance, inclusion, belonging in our homes and communities, no matter what our political affiliations are.”
In summers past, the Evans have celebrated acceptance and inclusion during their Loving Day celebration. They held it at Edye’s Ebony Road Players theatre on Kalamazoo Avenue. It’s a series of family-fun community events that honor interracial families and Mr. and Mrs. Loving.
However, they hope that one day interracial couples become so commonplace that it’s the norm. They believe Harris and Emhoff will help make that happen.
“You learn what you see,” Edye said. “I think it’s great.”