My brother calls me in tears, all 235 lbs. of him.
Lying down in the piercing silence of my white-walled room, staring at my blank white ceiling, I pick up the phone.
On the other side of the line I hear silence coupled with throat clearing and long heavy sighs.
Finally, he says what he needs to say.
“Hey man, don’t be going out late.”
I’m use to these kinds of phone calls. I mean, he’s my big brother. He’s supposed to say things like “go to class,” or “be careful.” But this time his voice is tinted with a heavy heart.
“I’m serious man, I can’t…I know how it can be out there and I need you to be safe.”
I assure him that I will be and that the KKK threat was not attached to any violent acts, but now, tears begin to roll down my cheeks.
You see my older brother protects me. He always has and always will, but this time he feels like he can’t.
It’s not like the time he confronted my 6th grade bully, or the time we mourned our brothers death and he told me “Everything’s going to be alright.”
This time is different.
“Watch your temper, man. No, for real, because I swear if something ever happened to you…”
I hear it in his voice: the trembling and helplessness knowing that this time is different. This time he can’t fight my battles and tell me everything will be alright. He can’t defend me or confront my bullies.
“Please. Please just be careful…okay?”
No older brother should have to feel this way and I had so much to say.
“Nothing will ever happen to me.”
But I too could not bring myself to confidently say those things without thinking about the white supremacy in my town and that now has a place in the White House.
100 something miles away, my brother calls me worried, worried that in a town like mine, I could be exposed to violence, exposed to people who hate me because of the color of my skin and exposed to injustices that we thought no longer existed until our president gave them a voice.
The only difference is this time; he can’t shield me from these things.
And that’s what hurts him the most.
People say we are overreacting and that our feelings of fear are “unwarranted.” That our president elect will do a good job in office and that it is purely about politics.
But those people are shades away from harm and do not have to consider skin color at the voting booths, a privilege that we don’t have and will never have.
When my brother’s finished talking I wait a second, gather myself, and respond with a soft “okay.” I want to tell him not to worry, but I know it won’t help.
As we finish talking we ended our conversation as we always do: with the exchange of “I love you’s.” As we hung up the phone, his “I love you” echoed through my room.
Through the white walls, sadness and fear, and back onto my white ceiling where I painted an America that made me feel just as safe and important as everyone else.