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August 27, 2012

The Gold Man – A Guest Blog

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/the_gold_man_a_guest_blog_20120826/

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I spent the weekend in San Francisco with the Englishman and our kids.  It was his birthday, and with his oldest daughter there attending university, we headed up so we could celebrate together. Our kids all get along in a marvelous way and I am truly blessed because I love his children.  They are remarkable young women and I think of them as not only his children, but my friends.  This blog was written by my Englishman’s oldest daughter.

I have lived in San Francisco for over four years. Moving to Northern California after growing up in LA for the first seventeen years of my life was just what I needed.  A real breath of fresh air. Everyone was friendly, down to earth, and accepting. I don’t have enough fingers to count the lifelong friends that I have made in this incredibly diverse city.

On the contrary, I can count on two fingers the times I have experienced uncomfortable confrontations fueled purely by racial tension, and the unnecessary rift this causes between people. They say terrible things happen globally and on a daily basis, but the only time it hits home is when it happens at home with the people you love most in the world.

Today I experienced something that made me feel angry and helpless, but mostly sad. I was walking along the Fisherman’s Wharf with my father, his girlfriend, her son, and my little sister. It was Saturday so it was absolutely teeming with people, and we were all packed like sardines walking on the sidewalk.  All of a sudden I realized I bumped into a gold man.

This man had painted himself and his clothing entirely gold. He was one of those busquers who make their living performing on the street. He was very, very tall and was wheeling along a cart (gold), which contained some of his belongings (gold) and his boom-box (yes, gold). The gold man was clearly in a hurry.  He was also African-American.

After bumping into him I immediately apologized and said “Excuse me”, at which point my sister tripped over his boom box.  She also said “Excuse me”. I felt bad I had knocked into him and so IU said sorry.  I did not apologize because I am white, privileged, or live above the poverty line. I apologized because he is a human being, and deserves respect.

I have been fortunate enough to be raised with manners, to have compassion for all people, and to admit when I have made a mistake. That is why I said “Excuse me”, but I may as well have said “Damn you and your gold boom box to hell!” To say this man was infuriated would be an understatement. He started calling my sister stupid.

He was cruel to her for absolutely no reason. I tried to explain to him that she was a child and it was an accident, but he didn’t care to let it go. He went on cussing out my fifteen year old sister.  She stood there in shock not sure what to do, but scared.  My father was not scared and immediately sprung into action to protect us.

Then my father got involved and I had to stand in between a large gold man and my father because 1.) It was my father’s birthday and 2.) I could tell that this man had hate and rage inside of him, and although I would have loved to see him be put in his place, it would have been unsafe for everyone involved and therefore not worth it.

When Goldie continued to scream at my sister I called him an asshole.  Not the coolest thing to do, but it needed to be done.  He then proceeded to scream, “SO NOW WE’RE GONNA BRING RACE INTO THIS?”. I was shocked by his reaction but my Dad did not skip a beat and yelled out, “YEAH! Because we really HATE gold people!”

As I stood in between these two men, swearing at Goldie and holding back my father, I felt incredibly sad. Sad I was using profanity in front of the people who had formed around us, and sad that the man painted in gold felt the need to take his anger and hate out on two young women.  The entire scene was sad and had nothing to do with race.

I don’t know what this man’s life has been like.  It could have been horrible, filled with abuse, abandonment, and everything in between. But does having a traumatic past condone disgusting behavior? Does having a hard life give someone an excuse to randomly throw race into an argument in order for that person to justify their hateful actions?

Maybe he grew up with privilege and his anger had nothing to do with his history and everything to do with the fact that he was simply an asshole.  As for me, did my being a white woman calling the gold street performer, who happened to be African American, an asshole, constitute any type of racial slur? No. It had absolutely nothing to do with race.

The anger within the gold man made me sad.  The strength of my father to stand up for us made me happy.  My coming to the aid of my little sister with no fear made me proud.  This man has a chip on his shoulder and probably will for the duration of his life, so I feel sad not only about what happened, but for this angry and hurtful man.

I’m thankful that no one was hurt.  I will pray for him and others like him, because in doing so I am “keeping the faith”.

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