So picture it. Your humble correspondent is hurtling down a divided rural highway, just north of Grand Rapids, Mich. He drives a 1990 Ford Ranger XLT with an uneven black-and-green paint job, because he does not care for a large car payment after the fiasco of his 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee being totaled but the insurance company saying, “oops, better luck next time.”
So. Where was I? Oh, yes.
I’m traveling mid-pack in a herd of five vehicles, proceeding southbound on M-37, with the whole pod running about 7 m.p.h. over the posted limit. On the far side of an unusually wide, grassy median, pointed northbound along the shoulder of the outside lane, was a Michigan State Police patrol car; it was parked with the windows up and the engine running.
Soon, I see the trooper cross the median and accelerate toward us. He singles me out and pulls me over.
The officer, a middle-aged African American, politely requests my license, registration and proof of insurance. My insurance card was locally printed (I am a Progressive customer) and it took him a moment to figure it out — itself unusual, since every time I was pulled over in a newer-model vehicle, the insurance part usually consisted of the question, “Do you have valid insurance? Yes, OK then good enough.”
The trooper took all of my documentation and headed back to his car, where he sat for all of 45 seconds before returning to me, handing me my paperwork back, and telling me he pulled me over becuase my muffler was loud and I should get it looked at.
Now, permit me to share a few points of trivia:
- My muffler is, indeed, loud; the urban gang-banging previous owner of the truck installed a louder one than normal, but it was new and was well within legal decibel limits.
- I was traveling in a pack of vehicles; how did the trooper know which one was the loud one?
- The pack passed him 100 feet away, while he had his windows up. What exactly did he hear?
So, my thought — given how short of a time he spent with my paperwork — is that he saw an older truck with a crappy paint job and figured I was a slam-dunk ticket or arrest for something, even something as trivial as a paperwork discrepancy.
And when I wasn’t actually found guilty of anything, he sent me away faster than Rick Sanchez fleeing the local rabbi.
As I pulled away, I was struck by the irony of it. I was a law-abiding citizen, pulled over because I was profiled. And I was profiled by a black cop.
Who says race relations haven’t progressed much since the ’60s?