Dear Shyanne and Joshua,
I’m sorry that I didn’t have the privilege of knowing you. I’m sorry that you were killed so horribly, so inexcusably, by stupid men with guns. And I’m sorry if now, in death, both you and those you loved are being blamed.
I’m sorry if you have grown up in a city and in a land where it is easier for some to offer hurtful words about immigrants and their children than it is to express simple sadness for your deaths. I’m sorry if your family and those surrounding you are dealing not only with unfathomable grief, but also with the bigotry and cynical politicking that preys so eagerly upon the suffering of others.
I’ve heard that you were good students. And I wonder if you were brought up to believe in the power of education. I wonder if your parents taught you that you could find a better life than theirs through study and hard work. And I’m sorry if you ever came to doubt this. I’m sorry if you ever came to fear that your city and country were places where the stupid and selfish ruled. And I’m sorry if the lesson taught to you by those with more money and power and voice is that it is better to be dumb and loudly self-aggrandizing than it is to be studious and good.
I’m sorry if, in days to come, your deaths will not be mourned enough by your city as a whole. Not mourned as much as those who happened to live in different neighbourhoods or looked a certain way.
I’ve heard it said by some nice people that there are now, in your deaths, two new angels watching over your neighbourhood, and I would like to believe this, but I have never seen an angel. And I’d like to believe that, if there are angels, they are not invisible, or only of one shade of skin, but sometimes may look just the way you did. And really, most of all, I’d like to see and ponder the quiet miracles, and needless deaths, of a young man and a girl.
I’m sorry if you were killed by a man who looks like me, for I was raised in Scarborough, the son of dark-skinned immigrants. And though I’ve never held a gun or committed a crime, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve failed to do as a man and as a citizen, for I am not innocent, for we are none of us completely innocent. I’m sorry for whatever is presumptive and foolish about addressing you now, too late, with these inadequate words.
But there are other words now swarming, the stinging words I used to hear growing up not far from where you lived, the words that may pursue my own beloved children, and so I have to write, I have to try in this small way. I’m sorry that you weren’t given a better chance to prove, by living, what is still very good about your neighbourhood and city and country. And I’m sorry if, growing up, you were often made to feel like a problem.
David Chariandy is a Vancouver writer who was born and raised in Toronto.