Javon Johnson – “cuz he’s black” (NPS 2013)


So I’m driving down the street with
my 4-year-old nephew. He, knocking back a juice
box, me, a Snapple, today y’all we are doing manly shit. I love
watching the way his mind works. He asks a million questions.
Uncle, why is the sky blue? Uncle, how do cars go?
Uncle, why don’t dogs talk? Uncle, uncle, uncle, he asks,
uncle, uncle, uncle, he asks uncle uncle uncle
as if his voice box is a warped record. I try my best
to answer every question, I do. I say it’s because the way
the sun lights up the outer space. It’s because engines
make the wheels go. It’s because their minds aren’t
quite like ours. I say Yes. No. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I don’t know.
Who knows? Maybe. We laugh. He smiles at me, looks out the window,
spots a cop car, drops his seat and says,
“Oh man, Uncle, 5-0, we gotta hide.” I’ll be honest. I’m not happy
with the way we raise our Black boys. Don’t like the fact that
he learned to hide from the cops well before
he knew how to read. Angrier that his survival
depends more on his ability to deal
with the “authorities” than it does his own literacy.
“Get up,” I yell at him. “In this car, in this family,
we are not afraid of the law.”
I wonder if he can hear the uncertainty in my voice.
Is today the day he learns that uncle is willing to lie to him,
that I am more human than hero?
We both know the truth is far more complex than
do not hide. We both know too many Black boys who disappeared.
Names lost. Know too many Trayvon Martins
Oscar Grants and Abner Louimas, know too many
Sean Bells, and Amadou Diallos Know too well that we are
the hard-boiled sons of Emmett Till. Still, we both know
it’s not about whether or not the shooter is racist,
it’s about how poor Black boys are treated as problems
well before we are treated as people. Black boys in this country
cannot afford to play cops and robbers
if we’re always considered the latter, don’t have the luxury
of playing war when we’re already in one.
Where I’m from, seeing cop cars drive
down the street feels a lot like low-flying planes in New York
City. Where I’m from, routine traffic stops are more like mine
fields, any wrong move could very well mean your life.
And how do I look my nephew in his apple face and tell him to be strong when we both know
black boys are murdered every day, simply for standing up for themselves? I take him
by the hand, I say be strong. I say be smart. Be kind, and polite.
Know your laws. Be aware of how quickly your hands move
to pocket for wallet or ID, be more aware of how quickly
the officer’s hand moves to holster, for gun. Be Black. Be a boy and have fun,
because this world will force you to become a man far more quickly than you’ll ever have the need to. He lets go of my hand. “But Uncle,” he asks, “Uncle,
what happens if the cop is really mean?” And, it scares me to
know that he, like so many Black boys,
is getting ready for a war I can’t prepare him for.

100 thoughts on “Javon Johnson – “cuz he’s black” (NPS 2013)

  1. Javon Johnson performed this live at my USC orientation and it gave me the chills, just like the first time I saw this video. Still amazing.

  2. My sister and her black husband walked with my daughter to the park a while back and asked me to come pick them up cause it was going to rain, and when I had arrived craig was speaking with an officer who asked for his ID and kept asking him questions as to his intentions at the park and where he got his military ID accusing him of it being a fake, not knowing craig was on leave for a week but didn't ask my sister nor the other men there, there was an old man sitting on the bench all day just watching all the kids playing on the playground without actually having kids of his own there but they chose to question the black man first. And this isn't even the first time he has encountered something like that in my city, it makes me sick that this is still going on and as a 25 year old white girl I think that this needs to end. I think this poem is more of a scream for help because it's true, black people are treated like a problem long before they're treated like people. I'm ashamed of this country.

  3. When I was 14 I was stopped by the cops while walking home, I'm a brown muslim boy my beard was coming in, they stop me and have me sit on the curb for about 30-40 minutes asking me questions a lot of the time the same question rephrased in a slightly different way. One cop goes to the car and they keep glancing at eachother and then looking back to me. Ome of them asks me if I have my ID I said yes and he asks me to take it out so I go to my backpocket casually and the man's hand flys to his gun. I throw my hands into the air above my head and too scared to touch my pockets I lie and say I forgot my id at home but I give them my school id number. They eventually let me go and I am now always scared of the cops. They got called on me again this past year I was 17 then I had a book in my hand and was on the phone with a friend and for that my neighbors called the cops on me.

  4. I barely just woke up and I already need a nap to not start my day with sobbing uncontrollably into my pillow but you know what, I'd still sob!!!!

  5. shit that hit me deep.. some things that white people will never EVER understand!!

  6. "Getting ready for a war, I can't prepare him for"
    I felt that

  7. I cried so bad and I thought holy shit we live in a shitty country

  8. That literally gave me chills… I was not ready… i loved it.

  9. I love this. His poetry actually made me cry 😢 ❤️🙏🏼

    I don’t think every cop is racist, but it’s the unknown that frightens one. For instance, if you got bit by a dog, wouldn’t you be scared of all dogs, thinking they’re all the same. It may be sad or quite ridiculous, but it is true.

  10. Peace. My name is Kyng Drew and eye am an aspiring artist looking to spread my passion with the world. Not asking for much, just when you have some time to check out my IG @1kyngdrew. Thankh you! Asé

  11. July 2018 and this has me sobbing at work. It’s crazy the world we live in. God bless us all

  12. I honestly don’t understand why appearances matter so much. At the end of the day, we are all just human. We all bleed the same.

  13. every time that I watch this I am broken,,, how many times have I watched it 100s. am I just looking for emotional breaks, ? nawl. I want to smile but as long as black men who are in their apt get shot by off duty police I'm gonna watch this I'm going to cry. I'm going to share this over and over on fb and I'm going to most importantly pray for forgiveness on or culture who is trained to believe it is okay to treat each other this way there will be a reckoning and even in that I will not rejoice. Father have mercy on us and brother thank you for sharing your truth be blessed.

  14. “I’m not black, but this actually made me feel something, it hit me”’ shuttt the fuck up.

  15. So I'm driving down the street with my 4-year-old nephew. He, knocking back a juice box, me, a Snapple, today y'all we are doing manly shit. I love watching the way his mind works. He asks a million questions.

    Uncle, why is the sky blue?
    Uncle, how do cars go?
    Uncle, why don't dogs talk?
    Uncle, uncle, uncle, he asks, Uncle, uncle, uncle, he asks, Uncle uncle uncle, as if his voice box is a warped record.

    I try my best to answer every question, I do. I say it's because the way the sun lights up the outer space. It's because engines make the wheels go. It's because their minds aren't quite like ours. I say Yes. No. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I don't know. Who knows? Maybe. We laugh.

    He smiles at me, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat and says, "Oh man, Uncle, 5-0, we gotta hide." I'll be honest. I'm not happy with the way we raise our black boys. Don't like the fact that he learned to hide from the cops well before he knew how to read. Angrier that his survival depends more on his ability to deal with the "authorities" than it does his own literacy.

    "Get up," I yell at him. "In this car, in this family, we are not afraid of the law." I wonder if he can hear the uncertainty in my voice. Is today the day he learns that uncle is willing to lie to him, that I am more human than hero? We both know the truth is far more complex than do not hide. We both know too many black boys who disappeared. Names lost. Know too many Trayvon Martins, Oscar Grants, and Abner Louimas, know too many Sean Bells and Amadou Diallos. Know too well that we are the hard-boiled sons of Emmett Till.

    Still, we both know it's not about whether or not the shooter is racist, it's about how poor black boys are treated as problems well before we are treated as people. Black boys in this country cannot afford to play cops and robbers if we're always considered the latter,don't have the luxury of playing war when we're already in one. Where I'm from, seeing cop cars drive down the street feels a lot like low-flying planes in New York City. Where I'm from, routine traffic stops are more like mine fields, any wrong move could very well mean your life. And how do I look my nephew in his apple face and tell him to be strong when we both know black boys are murdered every day, simply for standing up for themselves?

    I take him by the hand, I say be strong. I say be smart. Be kind, and polite. Know your laws. Be aware of how quickly your hands move to pocket for wallet or ID, be more aware of how quickly the officer's hand moves to holster, for gun. Be black. Be a boy and have fun, because this world will force you to become a man far more quickly than you'll ever have the need to. He lets go of my hand.

    "But Uncle," he asks, "Uncle, what happens if the cop is really mean?" And, it scares me to know that he, like so many black boys, is getting ready for a war I can't prepare him for.

  16. Oh dont mind me just casually tearing up at work. ugh this was so beautifully executed. Extremely impacting

  17. This pissed me off because I see police shooting innocent black men that just move an inch. This makes me mad because I know I will never be able to stop all the violence.

  18. But he SHOULD know to hide from the cops! Until major reform happens here, you either be afraid or you accept death! THIS IS AMERICA. But this is not OUR America! Be strong because I have faith that soon we will soon be safe from THIS AMERICA!

  19. This was so beautiful and electric. You can actually see the horror on his face when he delivers his last line.

  20. And this, folks, is one of the main reasons I am so happy to be European. This type of racism and stereotyping and profiling doesn't happen here. I've never in my life heard of an innocent black man/woman/boy/girl being gunned down by cops in Germany.

  21. Ooo man I just went back to my poetry list on YouTube , I LOVE THISSSSS moves my heart EVERYTIME I LOVEEE THISSSSSS . My 15 year old brother was murdered January 21st 💔 and this moves me so true

  22. Unarmed white males are also killed by police but since it doesn't incite a race war it isn't reported…
    We have a militarized police problem more than a race problem.

  23. Fucking hell when a poem got me crying more than I can continue to draw goDD

  24. For anyone that needs this for a project, copy and paste this

    So I’m driving down the street with my 4 year old nephew, he, knocking back a juice box, me, a Snapple, today y’all we are doing manly sh*t. I love watching how his mind works. He asks a million questions. Uncle, why is the sky blue? Uncle, how do cars go? Uncle, why don’t dogs talk? Uncle, uncle, uncle he asks, uncle, uncle, uncle he asks uncle uncle uncle as if his voice box is a warped record. I try my best to answer every question, I do. I say it’s because the way the sun lights up the outer space. It’s because engines make the wheels go. It’s because their minds aren’t quite like ours. I say yes. No. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I don’t know. Who knows? Maybe. We laugh. He smiles at me, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat and says, “Oh man, Uncle, 5-0, we gotta hide.” I’ll be honest. I’m not happy with the way we raise our Black boys. I don’t like the fact that he learned to hide from the cops well before he learned how to read. Angrier that his survival depends more on his ability to deal with the “authorities” than it does his own literacy. “Get up,” I yell at him. “In this car, in this family, we are not afraid of the law.” I wonder if he can hear the uncertainty in my voice. Is today the day he learns that uncle is willing to lie to him, that I am more human than hero? We both know the truth is far more complex than do not hide. We both know too many Black boys who disappeared. Names lost. Know too many Trayvon Martins Oscar Grants and Abner Louimas, know too many Sean Bells, and Amadou Diallos know too well that we are the hard-boiled sons of Emmett Till. Still, we both know it’s not about whether or not the shooter is racist, it’s about how poor Black boys are treated as problems well before they are treated as people. Black boys in this country cannot afford to play cops and robbers if we’re always considered the latter, don’t have the luxury of playing war if we’re already in one. Where I’m from, seeing cop cars driving down the street feels a lot like low-flying planes in New York City. Where I’m from, routine traffic stops are more like minefields, any wrong move could very well mean your life. And how do I look my nephew in his apple face and tell him to be strong when we both know Black boys are being murdered every day, simply for standing up for themselves? I take him by the hand and say be strong. I say be smart. Be kind, and polite. Know your laws. Be aware of how quickly your hands move to pocket for wallet or ID, be more aware of how quickly the officer’s hand moves to holster, for gun. Be Black. Be a boy and have fun, because this world will force you to become a man far more quickly than you’ll ever have the need to. He lets go of my hand. “But uncle,” he asks, “Uncle, what happens if the cop is really mean?” And it scares me to know that he, like so many other Black boys, is getting ready for a war I can’t prepare him for.

  25. Can’t believe he just compared a nonexistent police problem to 9/11. Piece of trash.

  26. Man I cried y’all. How tf did it take me 18 years of life before I found out about this channel

  27. People are always saying "It can happen to everyone", "Stop making it about race". But if you are a straight white male who isn't jewish, you have never had to fight to be yourself.

  28. damn, i’ve been watching a bunch of videos and this is the first one to make me cry

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