I can’t do the exact math but I probably spend half the time I’m awake absently worrying about my brother. He’s fine, but every time another black male gets shot for no reason, I start getting panicky and shut down and worry about him. He would never be in a position where this would happen to him. He’s not antagonistic (the women in my family are notoriously unbalanced and aggressive so the men have seemingly adapted by being calm and passive) and he’s endlessly polite and patient, so nice that I used to think we weren’t even related. He does not have an inherent distrust of cops. I have been known to stupidly scream at police officers; my brother has taken state exams to become one.
But he is a black twentysomething-year-old dude, and he is slightly darker than me, and he wears baggy clothes and boots and crooked baseball hats and an earring. He lives in my old, poor neighborhood where cops are constantly on edge because of gang violence and where I’ve woken up due to drive-by shootings or stray molotov cocktails. He sometimes drives a motorcycle with a group of guys in matching Ruff Ryder vests and other times he drives a Mustang while blasting loud music. These are things that Cops Don’t Like. He would never, ever in his life hurt anyone or doing anything bad — I mean, he’s even basically straightedge, so much so that he wouldn’t even take painkillers after a car accident required multiple painful surgeries — but that doesn’t matter, right? I worry because he looks a certain way, because he’s tall and can seem intimidating until you talk to him, because he wears earbuds that impair his hearing, because we both get followed in stores but I’m the only one who notices, because he carries a large cell phone that cops could claim resembles a gun, and because he has metal rods in his legs that set off metal detectors and cause him to limp, preventing him from being able to quickly exit a shitty situation.
If anything were to happen to him, there wouldn’t be any talk about how he is the nicest person anyone knows or how he wanted to be a police officer or join the military. They’d mention that he dropped out of college, though. Or that he was once in a motorcycle gang (which is definitely not a gang, but a group of cool guys who ride bikes and watch movies and lecture me on not going to church). They would say he’s in a gang but would not mention that a car once nearly broke his body in half while that gang was delivering Christmas gifts to children in poverty. But nothing good that you’ve ever done matters if you’re young and black and cops don’t give a fuck, and it’s terrifying.