“May I ask what you’re doing?” asked the thickly accented Germanic voice through the trees.
I’d just parked my car and planned to walk one of our dogs on a recent afternoon. After riding over 3 hours in the back seat, she needed to do what dogs do. We’d alighted in what I once thought was a friendly neighborhood, the kind of welcoming place you might be happy to live in. Indeed, the location is next to one of our favorite local golf courses.
My plastic bag was in one hand and our leashed tail wagger was in the other. She blissfully sniffed the grass next to the public sidewalk while I looked up at the unexpected questioner. Through the branches, I saw he was a tall ruddy-faced senior standing in the yard of the adjoining residence.
“I’m walking my dog,” I answered as though not patently obvious even to the half-sighted. “Why are you asking?” I inquired.
“We have a neighborhood block watch,” he replied sharply. “Well, good for you,” I rejoined now understanding what this was really about.
Not that I wear my sensitivities on my sleeve. Still, I used to wonder — but no longer do — about the point in life when age, appearance or socioeconomic status finally insulates from small-minded prejudice. It never does.
Those sculpted and fired by intolerance see what they want to see. No matter if you dress neatly or drive a nice car. Or are past your middle earlies and are minding your own business on a sunny public walkway with a contented canine. For folks partial to a preferentially homogeneous community, there goes the sidewalk. You can take the Latino out of the ‘barrio’ but you never take the barrio out of the Latino.
Ethnic stereotyping and racial profiling are part of growing up in urban America.
“May I ask you not to come onto my driveway,” the stranger inhospitably admonished. “Don’t worry, I have no intention,” I answered as he turned and walked away.“And you’re a friendly one,” I added.
Not that he went away. He turned and stood in his open garage and looked on and frowned. Just another bigoted day in the neighborhood.