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Black Nanny in the City

I have traveled around the world, but I have lived in NYC my entire life. Most of that time has been in Brooklyn, but my husband and I recently moved to the Upper West Side with our two sons. It has been an interesting experience, to say the least. On more than one occasion, the doorman has mistaken my husband for a delivery person. Each time I visit one of the playgrounds in Central Park between 96th street and below, I rarely see Black babies and children with a Black caregiver. For anyone who visits the Upper West Side or the Upper East Side…you know what, actually, for anyone who visits most of Manhattan, it’s more common to see White children under the care of a Black nanny. On a play date with my sister-in-law and her daughter, we sat in a playground on Central Park West and chuckled out loud when we noticed the playground suddenly emptied out after the nannies ended their shift. We laughed about experiences of strangers approaching us and inquiring if we knew of “anyone looking for childcare positions” or the wording that is frequently used in parenting Facebook groups for certain neighborhoods when families need to dispose of their current nanny: “We are looking for a new home for our nanny.” My sister-in-law pointed out that it almost sounds like the nanny is a pet in the descriptions. I realize that in many of these instances, there is no harm meant. However, my atypical sense of humor usually finds humor disguised in disgust from these experiences. On a more recent experience of speed-walking my son to school down West End Avenue (we are usually running late in the mornings, which results in me speed-walking like a maniac), I had an exchange with a woman who was blocking the intersection while taking a phone call. I politely reminded her that she had the light, hoping that she would move her enormously large side-by-side double stroller out of the curb ramp. I reminded her a second time and pointed out that I also had a stroller, too. Instead, without turning around, she proceeded to continue ignoring me until I pulled my stroller up besides her exchanged some colorful words. When I told my husband about the experience later that day, I didn’t feel proud of my actions. But, I did feel frustrated that this woman thought it was perfectly okay to put my needs aside in that brief moment. I thought out loud about a possible justification for her privileged actions. Was she deaf? No, she was on a call. Maybe she was on an emergency call? But, that didn’t warrant her initial rudeness and her demand for me to “please, keep walking” during our exchange. She had her back to me, and only heard my voice when I said I had a stroller. Did she assume I was a nanny in "her" neighborhood? My husband suggested that I was simply overthinking the exchange. I’m not sure.


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