Advice Column- IF YOU ASK ME

The Next Family

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Dear “if you ask me”
I was at the playground the other day, sitting among the other mommies and nannies. I noticed the woman next to me like myself, was white – but the boy she was minding happened to be black. I was very curious as to whether this was her son or if she was his nanny, but I thought asking her would be considered rude and not politically correct. I was wondering if there was a polite way of having this conversation with someone, without stepping on any toes or appearing ignorant.
Thanks,
PC Polly

Dear Polly,
Easy. Just ask! I think this is a perfectly natural question that any reasonable person would have, and I imagine the nanny/mommy has been asked before. Maybe the little boy was indeed hers – perhaps she is married to a black man, and the boy is actually bi-racial. Or perhaps he was adopted. Or even if she was the nanny, I can see no harm in simply asking “is this your son?”
I get your desire to be respectful, but grow some Ta Ta’s PC Polly. Ignorance is fueled by fear, and the more willing we are to explore our curiosities, the more enlightened we become.
In this specific situation, I think the only way you could have been disrespectful would have been if you made the assumption that she was the nanny. It’s always better to err on the side of a well-educated and savvy park-benchwarmer than assuming that everyone at the playground who doesn’t look like their kid is the nanny.
A good friend of mine who is herself the mom of a bi-racial child has a response ready for when she is asked how she could “possibly be Annie’s mom when they look nothing alike”; she simply says with a smile “Annie is the perfect combination of the best traits of her dad, and the best traits of myself”. Just like your kid.

Thanks!
I.Y.A.M

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