A Sign of the Times: Race and Motherhood in the Laundromat

The other day I noticed some new signs in the Laundromat I use. Most of the signs are these:


It all seemed pretty standard; they are not responsible if you don’t pay attention to your laundry.  The new signs that were up were in Spanish. I took two years of high school Spanish and consequently can only decipher if someone is talking about their pencil or notebook, but I was able to piece together that this sign was telling patrons not to leave their children unattended. laundro2



At first I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed there were no similar posts in English.

My first thought was about how racist this was – I don’t think it was malicious, but is that excusable? It isn’t, but at the same time, it makes me think about our cultural expectations.  The assumption is that women are there with their children to do laundry and perhaps their socioeconomic status means they are lesser and going to be negligent of their mothers.  The reality is that there are children running around the Laundromat all the time, but not all of them are Spanish-speaking.

Signs in a Laundromat, however benign, do reflect the cultural expectations within a community. I wonder how aware people are when they make these signs, and how aware others are when reading them.


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