Canada Is Not Missouri (as heard on CBC Here and Now – August 21, 2014)

Canada is not Missouri
a country rather than one of fifty states
prone to cold rather than race riots
though we’ve had a few in our history
a land where law preceded the settlers
rather than a gateway to the wild West

Canada is not Missouri
the gateway is wild with anger these days
after a Black youth was gunned down
in the middle of a Ferguson street
suburban town of mostly African-Americans
served by a mostly white police force
felt anything but protected in the aftermath
so they rose up in furious protest
then police swarmed the streets in riot gear
in response protestors looted and burned
spontaneous release of pent up frustrations
that found voice and resonance in the callout
“hands up! don’t shoot!”

Canada is not Missouri
Toronto is not Ferguson
these truths do not change the reality
Michael Brown is no longer alive
and Black citizens are not satisfied
resolution is not just around the corner

homicide is not less heinous to family
when a police bullet takes life
because homicide means the killing
of one human by another
and we need to be real with people
about what a police shooting means
to the affected community
a police officer is a human being
and a suspect shot dead was also human
it is the very definition of homicide
candy coatings do not obscure reality
we need to treat all as human beings
no matter how or whom is responsible

with the motto “Proud Past, Promising Future”
Ferguson has work to do to make its motto stick
in this suburb of St. Louis in the state of Missouri
the body politic is quite decidedly sick
for true healing to come to the fore for its people
so they can find the serenity to live in peace
they must feel with certainty the cops in their midst
serve the interest of the people who are being policed
allegations of racism come from all different quarters
not just Missouri but all across America and so
while it’s easy to dismiss it as beyond our concern
Blacks shot dead by police is something we know
it has happened in Toronto so Ferguson’s anger
feels real to a community who understands the grief
despises the denials and abhors the excuses
seeks fruitlessly for a new reality that brings relief

Canada is not Missouri
but both places are filled with humans
for the group among those with melanin-rich
skin tones who feel the law is an oppressor
confirmation of their views was received
through what happened to Michael Brown
and even though his body
left to cruelly rot under summer heat
found itself there through a violent end
to life due to death at the barrel end
of a service revolver in Ferguson, Missouri
to Black people here it feels just like
those gunshots rang out right here
on a suburban street in this town

Canada is not Missouri
but Michael Brown could have been
the child of despairing Toronto parents
searching for meaning in the senseless
just as two parents are now doing in Ferguson
for a culture of distrust between police and Blacks
known to Black parents across North America
instils fear for the safety of their children
should they encounter armed agents of the law
it is senseless to believe otherwise
and disingenuous to say we are unaffected
because this happened south of the border
rather than on our city’s streets

Canada is not Missouri
this much is doubtlessly true
but even if Toronto is not Ferguson
what happened there should still matter to you.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2014. All rights reserved.


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