Hi Meltingpot Readers,
So, we just had a huge baby shower for my cousin who is expecting her first child. We’re the same age so the fact that she is having her first child now was truly a cause for celebration, so my entire extended family descended upon Philadelphia for the shower. And of course, the three-hour shower turned into a three-day, non-stop party.
So, one day during the festivities, my mother and one of my play aunties, who happens to be a caramel-colored Colombian woman in her fifties, took babygirl out to lunch. It was just the three of them. The restaurant they chose was in an affluent but relatively diverse neighborhood and they were seated next to a White man and his precocious two-and-a-half year old daughter.
The little girl, my mom says, was staring at babygirl and then at my mom and my aunt. Then she looked at my aunt and said,
“Are you her mommy?” referring to babygirl.
My aunt said, “No, I’m her aunt.”
Then the little girl looked at my mother and said,
“Are you her babysitter?”
My mother smiled politely and said,
“No, I’m her grandmother.”
The little girl didn’t say anything else and the father didn’t either.
I couldn’t believe this story. First, because I couldn’t believe a two-year-old could say babysitter. (Maybe babygirl is just a little behind.) But really, because I couldn’t believe a two-year-old would already put Black + White together and get ‘babysitter.’ What does that mean? Is her little world so full of Black women and white babies that she made that assumption? To me that’s kind of sad. I think. But it’s also why I wrote my novel, Substitute Me. Because of this global assumption that women of color are the caretakers of White children. If a baby can make that assumption, then anyone can. In many ways it’s true, but does that make it right? I’m conflicted. And I felt really badly for my mom, that she was mistaken for her granddaughter’s babysitter. I’m used to it. But she’s not. Remember, all of her children look like her. *sigh*
I’m wondering dear readers, would you have said something to the father of this child? Do you think he should have said something to his daughter or to my mother? I’d love to hear some opinions on this. You know I’m listening.