My mother was a racist

My mother was a racist until, during the last three years of her life, she came to share her apartment with people of color. She had a stroke and needed the care of home aides all the time. My mother’s aides were mostly women from Caribbean countries, plus several white women and a gay man. Day after day from the moment she awoke to the time she closed her eyes at night, she was in the hands of other people. She came to love them, not all equally, but love was somewhere in the room. She was a racist who had to rethink what she had believed but had not experienced. She taught them Yiddish. She used Jamaican slang in conversation. She shared her bed when her aides piled on to watch TV. She was a funny monster who was poignant in her helplessness and in having to remake her understandings at the last moments of her life. She became a human being right before she was no longer anything but a comic memory to her aides, who nine years later still talk to each other and to my sister and me about how they taught her to be a person.

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