We went to church on Saturday, all of us, and caught the Meghan and Harry spirit.
This American girl tried to avoid it as best she could. Yes, I’m biracial like Meghan Markle, black like Meghan Markle, but I told myself I would watch a couple minutes of the royal hoopla — catch a glimpse of that dress, maybe — and then carry on.
But in the end I couldn’t help but get swept away.
Maybe it was the familiar sounds of the gospel choir, as Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” rang out across St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and soothed me like an American lullaby.
Maybe it was the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s sermon about the power of love, invoking the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. no less, as his booming cadence washed over the British church, leaving some of the royal guests looking as if they might faint in their pews.
Heck, maybe it was Oprah. She was there, seated not far from the tennis star Serena Williams.
Who knew the royal wedding was going to be so black? Who knew it would be so American?
And then there was the happy couple, the love we saw on full display.
“There were some old slaves in America’s antebellum South,” Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, told us. “They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says ‘There’s a balm in Gilead …’ a healing balm, something that can make things right.”
Suddenly, I thought about 11-year-old Tshego Lengolo, the British daughter of a South African immigrant, who sees Meghan Markle, and thinks of herself as a princess for the first time, too. “There is nothing that racist people can do about it,” she told The Times this month.
I thought of that photograph years ago of President Barack Obama with little Jacob Philadelphia, bowing down so this black child could know that the president’s hair was just like his own.
And then I began to cry.
This is exactly what I wanted to avoid, really, this buying-in, this excruciatingly fragile hopefulness about what is possible for a black woman, and about what is possible for Americans.
Here was Meghan Markle, this beautiful bride, this self-described feminist. This divorced biracial woman, 36 years old, who had built her own career. This black princess.
Maybe I had avoided the spectacle because I was afraid for her, afraid for us, because I thought it might be too much to hope that others could fall in love with her, too.
But they did. And now this silly British wedding has this American tomboy thinking about dreams I put away when my country’s betrayal of us became clear. Now I’m imagining the day when we wake up and remember who we want to be.
Saturday, we learned that Meghan and Harry would take the titles of Duke of and Duchess of Sussex, an apparent nod to the last Duke of Sussex, Prince Augustus Frederick, a son of King George III who supported the abolition of slavery and also backed civil rights for Jews and political dissidents.
After the royal wedding wrapped up, Meghan and Harry drove off to their reception in a silvery blue Jaguar. I treated myself to brunch at Bubby’s in Lower Manhattan, where I sat by myself at the bar.
As it happens, a Scottish man sat down next to me and we chatted about the morning’s spectacle. “This makes me want to like the royal family, damn it,” he said.
Me too. Thank you, Meghan Markle, we needed that.