The Raw Persistence of Racial Profiling

I started driving legally the day I turned fifteen years old, as California state law requires, in the summer of 1995. Years later, when my friends and I started driving without chaperones, we were probably pulled over together a few times a year. Rarely did it ever result in us being cited for moving violations.

I was stopped 5 times in November, 2012. My 2006 Audi A4 had recently died on me, so I was driving an old ’96 Mitsubishi Eclipse that I got on craigslist for cheap. Majority of the car was wrapped in scratched white paint. The driver's side door was replaced with a red one. It drove okay. The muffler was a bit too loud for my taste. I was spoiled by the comfort and engineering I loved in the Audi brand. I started riding my bicycle more often, leading a greener lifestyle, causing my enthusiasm in European luxury cars to dwindle.

My experience driving for the last 25 years has shown me that there are ways to not be noticed. Luxury cars, old schools, nice wheels, beating sub-woofers, and eye sores all attract unwanted eyes. 

I had a straight bucket, but it rode good. I missed my premium sound system, listening to the world outside my window that didn’t roll all the way up.

Over and over, I would get stopped. It felt like I was intentionally being made late for work. My planned commute to work accounts for traffic, but never includes a contingency plan for impromptu traffic stops.

Being stopped these days doesn’t get me as upset as it did in my early twenties. So if Donald Trump implements the statement of the Fraternal Order of Police to lift the ban on racial profiling, my life will continue as usual. For the rest of us...


What must young victims of racial profiling do during an encounter?

    A) Be respectful, remain silent, and cooperate

   B) Belligerently express disdain for the implicit racial bias

   C) Refuse to cooperate and carry on with your

   D) None of the above: I got a better idea I will email you about at


Once my best friend and I were walking through a parking lot to our car after parting downtown. We were told to get out of the parking lot by a few officers standing outside their car.

“We are going to our car,” my friend said.

“You got a problem?” the officer asks him.

“Man, whatever dude,” he said with an attitude.

Suddenly, the officer snatches my friend by the arm and slams his head into the siren of the police cruiser.

I argued and protested as I watched my friend get loaded in the back of the police car and driven away. I felt helpless for not being able to do anything about it.

Another time, we were stopped on the freeway, because the highway patrolman said they heard a loud squeaking noise. Surprised by the flashing lights, we pulled over outside the naval base.

While the officers were harassing us, my friend in the passenger seat vomited on himself, igniting a reason for more harassment. So much for us going out that night.

The officer on the passenger side says, "show me your license."

I ignore him, not saying a word.

Frustrated, he shouts, "get out of the car!"

I asked, "for what?"

He opens the door. I get out.

While leaning on the back of my friends vehicle, the officers got upset with me for not cooperating with anything they asked. It resulted in the officer kicking my feet apart to get me to spread them. He pulls my wallet out of my pocket. It falls on the floor and reveals my military id.

In those days, I still carried my non-active reservist id. When the officer noticed it in my wallet, he assumed I was in a service member and demanded it.

I refused.

He contacted the Shore Patrol, the U.S. Navy's version of law enforcement. They arrived and learned even they didn't have jurisdiction to make me do things against my will. The cops put me in the backseat with my friend. Ironically, the one that vomited was able to stay on the freeway, with the car, until someone came to remove it from the freeway. Only the driver and myself were captured and driven downtown.

Expressing my disdain and refusing to show my identification, I ended up stranded downtown, looking for a ride from the police station. The driver wasn’t so lucky, he had to undergo a blood alcohol test because he refused a breathalyzer. For that his car was towed. He was never charged.

Knowing that good cops exist, I never wish harmful things on officers. I just wish they didn’t ruin our driving experiences.


If you have a good story about the first time you were racially profiled, email it to me at I would love to publish it here on my site.

Spurgeon Thomas

Urbanity Life, LLC, San Diego, CA


I am a #writer#businesssystemsanalyst, and #projectmanager, specializing in community improvement and creative project management. @urbanitylifesd