I read of the tragedy last week in New York, where two young girls were killed when a radiator malfunctioned and they were scalded in their city-funded housing for families.
I created an image in my head of the family and they were black.
I was wrong and their story upends a box of stereotypes reminding me once again that the conjured-up image can be a road to ruin.
The father is native American, the mother white, and they are from rural Maine, having escaped from there to create a fresh start.
Another stereotype is the tenement stoop-sitting, drug addicted father of multiple children.
Pete Ambrose, the father of the two girls, and as many as four other children, is apparently an addict all right, but his addiction started in the bucolic wilds of Maine, not in the Bronx.
The Times reports that they came from Aroostook county, population about 6,000 where, like all of Maine, there is an epidemic of heroin and meth abuse.
The notion of rural America as a haven of safety and purity is yet another false image.
And the handy stereotype of urban blacks taking advantage of the welfare system falls, too.
The Times also reports that the Ambrose’s “quickly learned to work the system” and though they were initially turned down for housing, simply reapplied a total of ten times until they were accepted.
They weren’t Bronx residents who found themselves homeless, they were Maine residents taking flight and expecting New York to give them a new life, for free.
They were, to employ the dreaded word, immigrants.
Historically, though, immigrants to New York didn’t expect to “work the system”, indeed, there was no system to work.
Mr. Ambrose can thank progressives and liberals for creating the social safety net into which he jumped.
This is especially ironic as Ambrose is an apparent social media poster of right-wing topics, including a video claiming that Michelle Obama is transgender, which was posted the night before the accident.
He should have been rejoicing that Mrs. Obama is both a fierce advocate for families and the homeless.
And, employing transgender folks to attack the First Lady is a three-corner kill shot in the game of hate.
Ambrose came to hate New York, Hunt’s Point specifically.
What was he expecting?
A suite at Trump Tower?
Now, no doubt, advocates for homeless housing will sue the city for negligence in the deaths resulting in a tidy settlement for the bereaved parents thus adding a touch of farce to a tidal wave of tragedy.