It’s pretty safe to say that aside from aerial terrorism, a screaming baby is every flier’s worst nightmare. But while most of us wold eye roll, grin and bear it if faced with that situation, Nyfesha Miller took matters into her own hands, literally.

According to the story, which has now gone viral along with this image, Miller not only held the baby who couldn’t be soothed by new mother Rebekka Garvison, she let the baby sleep in her lap throughout the entire flight and “even carried her off the plane and held her” so Garvison could get the stroller and carseat together “so I wasn’t struggling to try and do it all alone,” she told CBS. It’s a touching story of a woman with a heart much bigger than most of us, but the imagery is one many African-American observers can’t get past.

When I saw this picture and read the story, my mind immediately went from questioning why any mother would trust a complete stranger to hold her baby to recalling how at one point in time (not all that long ago) it was many black women’s job to nurse, nurture and essentially raise the children of white women who struggled to adjust to motherhood or who couldn’t bother to try. Even though there’s no longer a country-wide mandate requiring such “acts of service” from black women, this dynamic still lives on in the present mother-nanny relationship often characterized by a white mother employing a nanny of color to tend to her child’s every need. And I can’t help but think it’s that knowledge that padded Garvison’s comfortability with leaving her infant in a stranger’s hands.

But is it fair to let that dark past overshadow this touching moment? No one forced Miller, a mother of three herself, to help out what I’m sure she saw was nothing more than a fellow mom in need, and no one with good sense would argue that taking a newborn baby on a flight is an easy feat. Perhaps this is one of those situations where onlookers need to let their deep-rooted hurt go and see the beauty in someone stepping outside of themselves to do some good. Or is this a case where the situation isn’t about race — but really kinda is? 

Did you feel some type of way when you saw this picture?


Something amazing happened to me today and I will never be able to express how grateful I am for it. If anyone has ever…

Posted by Rebekka Garvison on Thursday, September 24, 2015

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  • Yurilyte

    Definitely wouldn’t have even thought about a mammy connection unless someone else brought it up. I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • drm

    It is just a woman holding a baby. Trust me that baby sees absolutely zero color. That baby is just glad to be comforted by another human. Too bad somewhere along the line we all lose that and every damn thing becomes about race.

  • racheal

    I disagree. I’ve done this before on the train. A young, white father came on the train with a SCREAMING baby…and of course he sat next to me. It was obvious the man didn’t know what to do with his son. I couldn’t just sit there and have this poor child scream bloody-murder the whole trip. I took it upon myself to calm the baby. As soon as I did the baby started to settle down and EVERYONE was appreciative lol.

    Needless to say it’s not about race but not wanting to sit next to a scream baby and providing a solution.

  • Natasha Peacock

    I see this as a women helping women. Babies feed off tension and stress. She was able to help this lady out and get her baby fix.

  • BillipPhailey

    While I wouldn’t want my face online, I’ve heard the frustrations of women who get the stinkeye b/c their baby loses it at 32,000 ft. There are so many images of BW being harridans and social worker cases. I understand the “mammy” aversion, but we are also soft-voiced, sweet nurturers too.

    Furthermore, American women can be ridiculous about being Supermom. There is nothing that is going to happen to your kid while you’re sitting.right.there. You are implying that there is something deficient about this woman b/c she let a “stranger” help soothe her baby. I’ve seen FAs pass babies around while mom goes to bathroom. I’ve held a 2-week old so her mom could get her Metro card. This sideways comment doesn’t make you look like a “better” mother. It’s insecurity, paranoia and not realistic for those of us who have family in far-flung places. It’s not healthy to have such a fear under these circumstances.

    The reason why most nannies are of color is b/c that kind of work is largely the province of the poor and working class. Only a few people can afford BA-educated white (foreign) au pair.

    • AfroCapricornette

      Not all au pairs are BA educated. When I lived in England, most of my affluent African aunts had Russian or Eastern European au pairs that lived in-house. My first time seeing that role reversal lol. Their jobs were the kids and anything to do with them. They spoke halting English but of course came to the UK to earn some sterling.

    • BillipPhailey

      Interesting. In the US, that person is a nanny. An au pair is a young woman on a work visa and/or student who watches the kids.

    • AfroCapricornette

      Some had visas to study English and could work then with strict guidelines and I believe at that time there was a special visa category for foreign au pairs. I wouldn’t have minded that gig as a teen. No more lol. They’re limiting entry of non-EU immigrants.