A Winnipeg man who grew up in Missouri is dismayed, but hopeful, as he watches the fall-out from the police shooting of an unarmed black teen from his home in Canada.

Steve Kirby, a jazz musician, said the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson shows how fraught the relationship between black people and police is.

The teen's death at the hands of a six-year veteran of the police force has rocked the St. Louis suburb for almost a week. 

"The more things change, the more things stay the same," Kirby said Friday, as state police took control of the city in an effort to quell the violence. 

Kirby said his friends and family still live in and around Ferguson, and he understands some of the frustration that erupts in the protests. 

steve kirby

Winnipegger Steve Kirby, who grew up in Missouri and has friends and family in and around Ferguson, has been watching as his former home is rocked by violence after the police shooting of an unarmed teen. (CBC)

"Those people don't have anywhere else to go," he said. "Those people are broke. If you see a hundred of them, maybe two of them own guns, because those are expensive they can't even afford a gun. They just want to walk to the store without a cop rolling up on them and mugging them."

He defended the use of the term 'mugging,' when talking about how police approach black people. 

"I've been mugged many times," he said. "Where they make me do something I don't want to do, just to show me that they are boss. I don't want that. I don't want to be scared of the police. I don't want to tell my kid how to be careful around the police."

He said in spite of the violence in Ferguson, he thinks racism is less of an issue than it was when he was growing up.
But as the recent violence shows, it's still entrenched in society. 

"If we have to discuss my race all the time, if you are walking away from me, thinking about my race, then that's a form of racism. Who's immune to it? None of us. I'm a racist. Because I think about it. But I'm aware of it. And that's how you start, and then you work on it."

Kirby said the more people are aware of racism, the more chance there is for real change.