Why I’ll always worry about my little brother

Bradyn Johnson | The Chronicle

I genuinely fear for the day my 15-year-old brother gets his driver’s license.

I imagine him in the car listening to music, singing along to his favorite songs – being independent. Once he leaves, he’s all alone; it’s only him and the road.

Every time there is another victim of excessive police force, I become an insomniac for weeks at a time. The thoughts scare me as I think of all the ways my brother’s driving experience could go wrong. Red and blue lights flash, and the reflection of the rearview mirror tells him that he’s being pulled over. My heart sinks, as images of people that have fallen victim to police violence insert themselves into my head. Sickened, I try to stop the visions.

My parents have had the talk with my brother about the do’s and don’ts of police encounters, and quite frankly, it’s unsettling to sit and watch while my parents explain a harsh reality to a 9th grader.

“Put your hands on the steering wheel where they can see them. Do not talk back. Sit up straight. Tread lightly,” my Dad says.

As my brother’s eyes widen, I wonder, why it is that we must take these precautions in order to save us from a police officer, a person who is supposed to protect and serve us? As a black person living in America, you have to learn when to have your guard up, and when to take it down.

My dad, like my brother, had “The Talk” with his parents as well. It is upsetting to hear that almost four decades later, my father had the same talk as my brother and I’m sure the same talk has been going on for generations.

Although my brother has yet to start driving, my father has been for the past four decades. He has been pulled over. He has seen the videos, the news articles and the pictures. I cannot imagine the fear and the anxiety that comes over him as he is asked for his license and registration, hoping that the cop has had a good day. 

It is inevitable that one day, my brother may have to go through the same thing my father has. My mother has been counting down the days until he gets his license, praying that he stays safe at all times.

It is crazy to think that while some fathers and mothers have conversations about the birds and the bees, my brother gets the talk about what to do and what not to do when it comes to police encounters.

I cannot lie, I am super nervous for next year when I am away at college. I will not be able to know where he is all the time or drive him places. Although I know he will do no wrong, the thought of him being on the road by himself scares me. 

Everytime there is another victim that passes away due to excessive police force, I become an insomniac for weeks at a time. I close my eyes and a certain scenario replays itself in my head. All I see is my brother in a car, being stopped by police. As I watch, my breathing patterns quicken. Somehow I stop myself from dreaming about what could happen next.

After a brutal attack is committed against a citizen, there is always a pattern that occurs. Social media. News outlet coverage. Police department apology. Protest. And a lack of action being done.

It truly amazes me that everytime something bad happens, Police are not indicted quickly for their crimes. Most of the time there is clear evidence of wrong-doing! In George Floyd’s case, his killer was not put in jail until months after the crime was committed.

While so many lives have been ended early because of violence, it is reassuring that officers have been indicted at a quicker rate recently. Tyre Nichols’ murders were put away just days after his murder. It is so important that as a community we come together and take action against injustice quickly, especially since so many black lives have targets on their backs when it comes to some police interactions.