Nanny Problem: I overheard a racist comment from my boss

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Dear Nanny X,

I am an Afro-Caribbean lady and an American citizen. I have worked as a nanny for a long time in New York. My family now is caucasian and wealthy types. They are good and polite most of the time. Up until now I have no complaints. 

Last week I heard the mom talking to her friend about the local PS school. Her kid is due to go next September and she is checking out schools. I heard her say, “my only concern is it’s 40% black and 35% latino and near projects. They have a talented program which I’m sure we can apply for but I’m a bit worried about the standards?” There was a silence and I heard her agreeing, then she says, “… exactly, that stuff really counts especially when your kid is trying to fit in. I don’t want him picking up that, you know, way of talking.”

I pretended to be working but I felt really bad. My son goes to a predominantly minority PS school and he is doing really well. I didn’t like that she judged the school based on race. Should I say something? I don’t want her thinking I was snooping. At the same time I feel like she looks down on minorities. 

Nanny T

Dear Nanny T,

I’m sorry you had to over-hear that conversation or at least a part of it. It’s difficult to judge the tone because we do not know what the other person said. For that reason alone I would hesitate in mentioning it. You also did over-hear something that perhaps should have been private. 

Let’s just say that your employer was reluctant to send their child to a public school based on race it may not be entirely based upon the color of the children’s skin. It sounds more like a generic fear about the standards in that school based upon the economic demographics. She might be worried her child will be left behind because the majority of the children need more attention. Of course it’s based on assumptions related to poverty and standards but test results also don’t lie unfortunately. 

Parents must look at every factor when considering their child’s education. It’s an awkward situation and it must make you feel personally slighted, but unless you overheard this conversation in the same room and with both persons present, you are actually making an assumption. 

If the subject comes up with you, you might want to share your own son’s positive experiences in his PS school and see what your employer says. If you feel she is being biased based upon the racial make-up of a school you then can tackle that. 

In the meantime, concentrate on your own wonderful child and make him the kind of statistic that dispels stereotypes based on race or zip code.

Nanny X