We’ll All Be the Color of Gold

About ten years ago, I took the A train to Harlem to dream about living in a refurbished brownstone selling for $300,000. It was a good house with thick walls. But that night I dreamed about losing my long view up Central Park and felt homesick..

In Harlem, I’d strolled to the Studio Museum on 125th Street, the first museum I’d known to give artists work spaces. I loved the hard-edge locally-made African designs on the locally-made bark cloth for sale in the museum shop.

One twenty-fifth Street is alive like no other in the city. Strangers laugh together. A vendor and six women persuaded me to buy a hat with a wire brim that the vendor twisted into every style (honestly). When I got home, I couldn’t work the magic in the hat. It awaits the kiss of a prince to restore it’s mojo.

An amazing thing happened on the bus ride home from Harlem. I think it was on Riverside Drive at 79th when I glanced out the window at the people on the corner, I blinked twice and even took off my sunglasses. But there was no getting around the fact that the washed out, beigey-yellow people looked lackluster. They (and I) do not possess the hundreds of glorious gold skin tones my eyes had been getting used to in Harlem streets.

I’d been among golden people.

Someday, I mused, in three generations or so, all races in this country will be married to each other and we’ll all be a little more golden..

When Barak Obama started his campaign for the presidency, I was committed to Hillary Clinton—her experience and gender being the deciding issues.

But who do you think can win, asked my friend Michael Wolff. Oh I think Obama will win, I blurted. I loved talking to him because sometimes I said things I hadn’t thought yet.

But what about his umm skin color problem, he asked.

Again, without forethought, I answered, he’s the glamorous color. He’s gold..

It was true. Not only was he a big-deal intellectual (President of Harvard Law Review) but he was so confident and beautiful and golden skin, black suit and white shirt, that I used to blink to make sure he wasn’t a glorious apparition. Funnily enough, he never struck me as sexy, like Bill Clinton did from the get-go, but his golden young beauty made him a knockout.

In decades past, liberals shied away from even mentioning that a friend or a party-guest about to arrive was a person of color. To me, that has always seemed ridiculous. We’ve been envious of Afro-Americans since they were brought here. Southern men envied the genitals of black men and made babies with black women. We are known for exporting rock and roll to the rest of the world—all hail Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley for starters.

When I was at college I was friends with an exchange student from Hampton College in the South. When he played his guitar and sang “and they call the wind Mariah”, I felt

I was transported to an unusual place between happiness and tears. He was golden. He told me that on one side he was descended from one of the first governors of Virginia. His ancestors were ¼ black. I wondered then, and still wonder, why he was called Negro or black when he wasn’t really either as much as he was white.

I celebrate the beauty of such people and long to be able to describe the bronze or gold or chocolate brown or (less and less common) the ebony tones of their bodies and faces.

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