My name's Joe. I grew up near New York and I go to school near Boston, the son of two Sikh immigrants from India, and I probably would never have met you. I'm not black, I'm not white, I've never even set foot in Missouri. But amid all the hubbub that has filled the void you left in the world, I thought I'd try to reach out to you.
You're gone, and because of the color of your skin, the color of the skin of the officer who shot you, the social media era in which you died, the racially charged community you called home, you've been turned into a flashpoint. Where once there was Michael Brown there is now an outlet for dormant rage and ancient fear. If you're watching from above, you may be wondering just how this came to be. You may be despairing at the circling of the wagons, as one community rallies to your family and another to the officer who pulled the trigger. You may be disappointed at the wildly different stories emerging.
I don't know if you were trying to surrender to Darren Wilson like the autopsy your family requested, and the witness accounts, seem to confirm. I don't know if you were overcome with anger and emotion and rushed at the officer, who was perhaps in turn overcome with fear, as he has stated. I don't know if there was marijuana in your system, I don't know if the Missouri county prosecutor intends to file charges.
I'll never know the life you lived. I'll never know what it's like to be the heir to an old, reviled thread in your country's history. When a guy like me walks down a street, people assume he's good with computers or a doctor or maybe even a convenience store owner with bad body odor. I've been given the chance, with a haircut and a manner of speaking, to be nonthreatening. And I regret that you never had that chance; how could you have changed the color of your skin?
But amid the chaos, your family have shown a level of grace that hardly seems possible. They only want justice, and for your passing to inspire peace.
Your community has shown miraculous restraint, wanting only to stop losing its sons. They have shown courage and kindness, soldiering on in your memory toward an equality you -- and perhaps even I -- will never see.
Some people don't care who you were, only that you can be an outlet for their rage, and have come from far and wide to try to twist your tragedy into chaos.
But Michael, know this. I am not of your community, but I pray your truth is told. I pray that you may be given clarity, and in so doing you may be given dignity. I pray people honor you by facing their demons without invoking your name as a badge of courage or honor or necessity. I pray the autopsies stop at three, because I cannot imagine what new evidence could be found that is so important that you not be buried.
I wish politics had never seized you. I wish people would stop offering conditional condolences, saying their hearts go out to your family but. I wish people who had never met you stop using your passing as something more than it was: the tragedy of a young man leaving us before his time. I wish people on all sides acknowledge the issue without needing to use your name, because that dims the simplest truth.
Unfortunately, it's too late. You've become a flashpoint, you've become a controversy, the totality of your life is being eroded by the spotlight. Eighteen years of living, breathing, running, crying, laughing, all burning and crisping and flaking at the edges. Memories turned to ash in the glare of people's need to know every detail as if it changes anything.
I understand that what's done is done. I just pray that the core of who you were, the vivid spark burning in the hearts of everyone you knew and touched, the incandescent will that inspires your family to fight for you in the national spotlight, lives on. I pray an end is found to the confusion and that you become what you always should have been: a candle, burning no longer but clutched in the hearts of everyone who knew you well enough to truly miss you.
I pray you will be allowed to rest, cherished and treasured by those you knew and respectfully mourned by those you did not.
I pray, Michael, that you will be the first of the last. I pray that the need to name our tragedies begins to fade with you. I pray that the name Michael Brown, in years to come, be remembered as the start of hands reaching hesitantly across communities and heritages and ancient differences, and finding -- and holding -- others doing the same.
I pray that we heal, in your name.
Goodbye, Michael. Be at peace.