Would you call this racial profiling?
- I'm a black dude. I studied engineering in the East Coast, where I co-founded a kind of well-known startup now in the North Bay. I'm not a fan of the limelight, I'm not well-known.
- I don't think of it that way, but I live in an area described on Wikipedia as an "affluent community".
- I guess I'm one of those nice guys that supposedly finish last. I am, unfortunately, not bereft of the odd youthful indiscretion - I drove a car with expired registration and license.
- One dark and dreary day, I was tired of working. So I decided to put on my sunglasses (it was a nice, sunny day after all) and buy a snack at a nearby grocery store. Not because I was hungry. I was bloody tired of staring at my monitor.
- I debated whether I should drive or walk, finally took my car keys. As I drove through my driveway, I saw a cop car. The cop yielded, I drove past him and he followed my car from behind. At first, he was far off, then he suddenly started driving very closely. That threw me off. I felt like I was being followed.
- After a few blocks of this, I took a right turn and returned back to my house. I didn't need to buy that unhealthy snack anyway. As I was parking my car, I remembered that I needed to shop for groceries, so I drove back towards the store. I saw the cop on a side street.
- As soon as I drove past the street, he sped towards me, sirens blaring. Moments later, a second cop car appeared out of the thin air. The first cop had been quick to summon backup.
- I stopped immediately, rolled down my windows, put my hands on steering wheel. First cop came slowly towards my window. He asked if I was lost. After some awkward silence, I said yes. He asked for my papers. I didn't have them. I didn't even have an ID. So I gave him my credit card.
- He scoped my amazon shipment of Nas & Damian Marley's 'Distant Relatives' CD on the passenger seat. Yes, I'm one of those neanderthals that still buys CDs in the age of the ubiquitous SSD. Dope album by the way, check it out. I bought it because they're donating all the proceeds to charities in Africa. Anyway, he asked for the shipment, so that he could glean my name and address off it.
- He went back to his car, and returned a couple of minutes later. He asked me to get out of the car. They checked me out for weapons, and told me to sit on the grass by the sidewalk.
- First cop asked if he could search my car. I have nothing to hide. Well, except the ye olde half-eaten cookie that was now green with fungi. I didn't want any "you have no right" drama, so I said, "sure".
- As cop #1 searched my car, the cop #2 started chatting me up. He sounded like a nice dude.
- Cop #2: "You ever been arrested before?"
- Me: "No sir"
- Cop #2: "Like never, ever ever? You sure?"
- Me: "For shizzle, my nizzle"
- Okay, I'm kidding about that last part. I stuck to the strict confines of her Majesty the Queen's language. Second cop came back, wrote down a ticket and handed it to me. He told me to get on my merry way. They were going to impound my car.
- I texted my friend, and told her that the cops were nice. I then texted my roommate. He texted back: "This neighborhood is like Nashville...it's easy to spot blackness. You gotta have your papers straight". It's an inside joke. One, at most two, of you will get it.
- I thought that was funny, so I texted my friend about it. She replied: "Ha!"
- That's when it hit me. Had I just been a victim of racial profiling?
- I didn't think there was anything suspicious about my driving, except that I took the right turn. Here's the thing about me. I'm completely against crying wolf about this sort of thing. I've seen/read/heard of genuine victims of racism. I don't want to take away anything from such cases.
- I've never experienced overt racism. Well, expect some drunk (I think) guys once yelled n****r (I thought I heard) as they drove past me back in the East Coast. Drunk cowards in a car don't bother me at all.
- I'm at a crossroads. I feel that I was on the wrong, that's why I didn't make a big deal out of this. I should have had my papers straight. My bad.
- But this has been bothering since it happened. Why was I followed? Would they have followed and stopped me if I wasn't black? And called up backup? And searched my car? What if I had acted 'ghetto'? What if I had said one wrong word? What are the odds that I could have received a thorough beating? And/or get framed with trumped-up charges? What if I was SHOT DEAD zomg ?!?!!!.
- I really don't care about myself. I'm fine. I'm just bothered that this probably happens daily to other people. Would you call this racial profiling?