The Mexican family that lives about five houses down and across the street seems set on enacting all the stereotypes about Texicans that they can. They stick out a little in this quiet suburban street where mostly seniors and childless couples live. They've already covered the front-lawn cookout with dozens of guys in cowboy hats milling along the whole block; the pit bull (and the tiny bug-eyed yapping dog) off the leash; and the shirtless teenagers having pellet gun fights running up and down the street yelling "Motherfucker" at each other and knocking over their younger sisters.
Today, as I passed them on my walk, I saw they had covered another stereotype. They had the pickup truck out front, stereo booming, car doors open --- because while they don't care to have a stereo system indoors, the truck has got to have the latest and greatest sound systems. The bass was, of course, pre-eminent in the mix. (When I got home, I discovered I could hear the music inside my house.) The kids were playing Frisbee up and down the street, and as I passed one shirtless youth, I swear to Shiva he was singing along to the bassline with these words: "Boom boom, boom-pa-boom-boom."
The guy directly to the west of me is a sinewy old retiree named David who was in the Army, 86 years old now and always out painting, repairing, watering, or biking. The very first day I drove into the driveway, he was out on his lawn and we had a brief talk. He said the neighborhood was a quiet, pleasant place, with no "illegals." I could tell the illegals really gnawed at him. A week or so later, after I got to know the block better, I was mentioning the pellet gun-toting kids as a nuisance (I was pretty distressed at their treatment of the young sisters, actually), and David replied as if in the neighborhood's defense, "Yeah, but they're the only Latins we have around here."
(I might have said to that, "Yes, but we have a ramshackle house with broken beer bottles perpentually on the lawn owned by three white ex-cons." But I didn't.)
Here's the odd thing: David is rather swarthy, and talks with just the slightest hint of an Hispanic accent. If he's a self-loathing "Latin," he wouldn't be the first I've known. My Ex-Father-In-Law was a fatter, darker, thicker-accented, first-generation Mexican-American, and a combat veteran, and man, he hated illegal immigrants and "those damn Spics" in general. (In fairness, he also had nasty things to say about blacks and white people.)
So, anyway, assumptions about race, huh?
On the other side of the spectrum, some of my neighbors appear to be hysterical paranoiacs. I subscribed to the Neighborhood Watch email group, and there are quite a few postings such as:
Saw a yellow car driving slowly down the street. I think it was checking out the houses. Called 911 immediately.
Saw three truants walking down the street. Seemed as if they were up to no good. Called 911 at once.
Messages such as these are always replied to with two or three congratulatory posts about being vigilant and calling 911 without hesitation.
Gee, isn't 911 for... uh... emergencies? Can't we wait for the "truants" to actually break into a house before we choke the line with calls? Somewhere someone's being murdered and no one can get through to emergency dispatch because these fearful histrionics took one look at some poor schlub driving down the street to look at houses for rent and decided he was a serial killer.