Once upon a time...
I had a maid while I was growing up. She was African American; her name was Ann, her husband's name was Roy. She took care of me and our home five days a week from the time I was two until I was fifteen. These days you'd call her a nanny. She lived in Harlem - which was exotic. She introduced me to the National Enquirer - to my mother's loud dismay. She ironed and cooked and cleaned and took me to the park and picked me up at school and made sure I practiced the piano and, I believe, loved me. I know I loved her. She had no children of her own - which was exotic and not discussed. My mother worked with my dad and taught piano - they were Juilliard graduates; most of what I recall from this time in my life was blissful.
One day I told Ann that I was surprised I was not yet Chinese. I was five years old. She looked at me. "What are you talking about, child?" she asked. Or some words to that effect. "Well, I've been very good. And when you're very good, you become Chinese." Chinese was something that very good girls became. Chinese was my reference point for beautiful.
"Then someday maybe I'll become like you," I told her.
"Yes, Negro. You know." I patted the skin on her arm. "Dark."
"And what would that take?"
"Oh, being even more good than to be Chinese."
She smiled, then laughed, then said, "Don't tell your mother this."
"She might not understand. It'll be our little secret."
Of course I told my mother. It took more than a year to re-educate me.
I'm still white and I'm still trying.
Causes Evelyn Sharenov Supports
Oregon Humane Society, ASPCA, PETA, HSUS