Joy and Fear: When a Black Mom Finds Out She’s Having a Boy

By Nadirah Angail

So far, I have one child, a little brown girl (LBG). She’s only 20 months, but I’ve already started my campaign against the ugly and powerful forces that will try to convince her that the deep golden brown of her skin is too dark, that the whimsical curls of her hair are too unmanageable, and that her half-African-American-half Senegalese features are too bold (and, therefore, unattractive). That alone is a full-time job, and come some time in early April (God willing) I’ll have another baby to defend, a little brown boy (LBB).

My first thought when I found out he was a boy was, “I knew it, I knew it!” Something inside told me, even before I was pregnant, that my next child would be a boy. Mother’s intuition, I guess. My second thought was, “Aww, my husband will have a son.”  My third through ninth thoughts were similar in their syrupy sweet nature, but around about thought 10, it hit me: I’m having a little brown boy, a member of the most targeted and feared demographic group in the country. That’s when the fear and worry set in.

I don’t know why it scared me so much. After all, both of my siblings were once LBBs, and they turned out beautifully. They’re both alive, can read (hey, not everyone can do that), have never been incarcerated, have no drug addictions or diseases, have nonexistent criminal records, and zero baby mamas (unless you count my older brother’s wife, who is also mother to all his children). They managed to dodge the huge targets on their backs, but only because of the amazing people we like to call Mama and Dad, who steered them through all the booby traps.
Usually, we obsess over our girls. We hold forums about premature sexualization in the media. We rally to get them into more sports and extracurricular activities, and out of music videos and the backseats of boys’ cars. We pray that they don’t get pregnant in high school and don’t become one of the girls with “a reputation.” We go hard for our girls, because we know the likely outcome if we don’t. But what about our boys? In many black communities, LBBs are expected to play the role of little brown men. In preparation for this world that has stripped many big brown men from their families, LBBs feel pressured to fill in the holes.

Perhaps that’s why LBBs are only one third as likely to graduate high school as their white male counterparts and make up a disproportionate percent of incarcerated males nationwide. I am not one to point a big accusing fingers at The Man for problems in black communities,  but LBBs definitely have a unique set of circumstances that make them susceptible to the deadly call of the streets. Keeping them away is hard enough, but once they’re in, it takes arms of steel to pull them back to the light.

I remember when my brothers and I were little. My mother was quick to make an appointment with any teacher who had a problem with one of her boys. It wasn’t that she was babying them or removing accountability for their actions, but she knew how quickly some teachers are to label LBBs as “disruptive” and cart them off to remedial classes, a.k.a. the breeding ground for failure.  That was NOT going to happen on my mother’s watch. My dad had a more relaxed, laid back approach, but his efforts were just as important. I remember how he made them get up and go to karate class every weekend, even after the coolness had worn off and they were starting to grow tired of it. He was determined to raise strong, disciplined sons who knew not to fight in most cases, but how to fight when necessary.

My parents made it look easy, but I know the stress they had to endure.  I have cousins and uncles who were dragged down by the magnetic pull of the street life. Some of them are in jail or rehab, others are in cemeteries. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for my parents to try to ensure that their sons didn’t follow suit. I guess my real fear is that I won’t find that balance, that I’ll end up being too strict and hyper sensitive or not strict enough and dismissive. Of course, I don’t want to be that aloof mother than has no idea what her son is up to until she gets a call from the police, but I also don’t want to be that over-the-top, hard-as-nails mother that ends up pushing her sons away by squeezing so tightly. It just seems like such a daunting task. Luckily, I don’t have to do it alone. I have a wonderful husband that I’m certain will be a great role model and guide, but I still get concerned when I think about the mountain we’re about to climb.  Too many of our LBBs are already on destructive paths, already convinced that their potential is weak. The stakes are so high. I can’t stand to lose

Nadirah Angail is a Kansas City-based author and blogger. She has published two books and written many articles and blogs that speak to her interpretation of the female experience. Find more information about her and her writing at

Flickr credit: CG2_SoulArtist

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I know EXACTLY how you feel! I felt the same awareness when I found out I was having a son. My heart bleeds for the men of our culture who have so much to endure. I have felt that we as a community are not doing enough to help our LBB’s. So I have taken the first step in our house by making sure he is in a loving, educated environment.

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  2. Khairiya Hodges

    I know how you feel and what you mean. I think it didn’t hit me until after I had my son, now 26 months. I think I’ve worried more now than I ever have when considering he’ll be going to school in another 2 years. My area has one islamic school and it is very very expensive. For that reason we’ll either have to put him in public school or home school him. Just out of fear that he will be labled and influenced as being “disruptive” or a problem child, etc, I really want to homeschool him. At the same time I want him to have social interaction, but again, as you said, I know how teachers can be. If he feels that he’s not getting equal treatment or being targeted as a student he can easily get discouraged and instead start hanging with some not so great people to keep him interested in school. I don’t want that for him. So it could very well be a paranoia of mine, but the fact that I will have a muslim boy, then muslim teenage boy in school scares me. Now on top of that I am having a little girl in June and I’m feeling this stuff all over again. lol. Inshallah my husband and I will instill the best knowledge and Imaan in him that we can so that he may be strong no matter the circumstances. I know it will be no easy task for him, but may Allah keep him safe and strong despite any sign of oppression that is directed at him.

    • Khairiya Hodges

      And I mean mainly in terms of him being a little black boy, but in additon being a muslim black boy. I meant to say that. lol.

  3. I know what you mean, I would defintely recommend author, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu. I have two LBB. My husband and I, are ready to fight the good fight!

  4. I’ve heard of Dr. Kunjufu. I’ll have to look his work up. Khairiya, I know what you mean. I go back and forth between home school and regular. Home school seems so time consuming though. I need a break! I have no idea what I’ll end up doing. Thanks for commenting, guys.

  5. I wish I could say that fear ends even when they get older but it doesn’t. My brown boy is now 19 and a college freshman and in some ways I worry more. Just getting pulled over strikes fear in my heart (this happened to him recently) all we do do is trust and pray that they will make it.

    I also have a girl who is 5 and while I worry especially with early sexualization I think I worry about my son even more. I fear with him that any missteps on his part can end up with loss of life. Thankfully he is a good kid, problem is the powers to be aren’t always good.

  6. Hey Nadirah…Congratulations on the addition of your LBB to the family! …and excellent article, your parents gave you an great blueprint

  7. I too know EXACTLY how you feel. And i am aware of it every day. I almost wear it on my sleeve as a way to warn the world away from any thoughts of hurting my son. He’s amazing. He’s 6 and of course has no clue what’s in-store and the reality is I won’t be able to protect him from it all. But my husband and I will certainly arm him with all the tools, knowledge and support he needs to make it through. And the world is better for having him in it.

  8. Teresha! Hey, so good to hear from you. You make me smile.

    Black girl in Maine, I remember when my older brother used to get pulled over a lot. He was so angry and my mom would just try to keep him calm so there wouldn’t be any…altercations with the boys in blue.

    Jackie, I have a 7 yr old nephew and he’s wonderful. Great in school. Me, my mom and his mom are all just waiting for someone to try to say something about him. We’ll all be at that school! haha.

  9. This was a really good article. I appreciate the concern and efforts of all the parents who have little brown boys because I have 3 little brown girls who will need strong, caring and educated husbands.

  10. Barbara Soloski Albin

    So very difficult to read this article without feeling the start of tears and I do understand the fears of this mother. It makes me sad, because being of the Jewish faith, the most exciting words in a family is the birth of a little Jewish boy to carry on the name of the family, yes we love our little Jewish girls (didn’t have any), but the celebrations that occur at the birth of a LJB are endless. This does not me that problems do not visit us later on also, as they do, but at least we get to enjoy those moments of joy, which all families should experience.

  11. Wow! If this isn’t timely for me and my LBB. We were just having a family conversation about an altercation at school between my son and another LBB. I was so distraught about the incident at school with my very smart young man who attends a very surburban school with mostly children who don’t look like him. However, when he shared that the incident happened with a child of his hue, I became livid. We have discussed over the years how hard men like his father have had to watch their image as though all black men are thugs, pimps and drug dealers. The last thing I want for him is to see is another LBB as his enemy, or any other person for that matter. Why do we have to continue with being fearful for our LBBs?? I just want to be able to raise happy, healthy children and not have these other things hanging in the balance….good post!!

  12. Nadirah:

    I know how you feel. I had some of those exact same thoughts when I found out I was having a boy. Amongst other things, I was so afraid and often wondered, “how am I going to do this?” And when I became a single mother, I thought it even more. My son is 3-years-old and already I’m thinking of leaving NYC for the suburbs and seeking out the best Pre-K program for him to attend. You had a great example with your parents. I love that your father taught them discipline by making them go to karate even when they didn’t want to. Judging by your highly reflective writing and your book (which I won through the a Young Mommy Life giveaway and I loved every essay!), I think you’re going to be a fantastic mother to that LBB. Like you said, the stakes are too high. We can’t afford to lose.

  13. Nadirah, this is such a great post! I can really relate to your fears and you are so right about all the challenges that LBBs face. I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful writing about a topic that isn’t always the easiest to discuss. Truly words of wisdom that I’m sure you will pass on to your precious children. Thanks so much for sharing this post!

  14. Alicia, you won? Great to hear from one of those winners. Thanks for the comments everyone. I hope everyone understands that I don’t have a defeatist attitude about having an LBB. I’m not sad about having a son. I’m just aware of the things he’ll be up against. That reality is what I’m sad/worried about. But I’m still overjoyed to be having a son. Just wanted to clear that up:)

  15. This is a bold writing, as are the responses. I am Jewish and did not want to have Jewish children, but then I married a Jewish man and have two wonderful children.
    So I can relate to concerns that others will project onto our children, though I recognize the differences. I love the way this is explored, with wisdom and compassion. Part of what I believe helps children, as they are old enough to hear it, is to inform them with history and let them know where they need to be extra careful (like the car example and the men in blue).
    It’s so sad that there’s racial profiling and stereotyping. But intermarriage is not the solution to relieving bias and hatred, dialogue like this is.
    Nadirah, Congratulations on enjoying and caring for the LBB in your belly. To all the truly thoughtful moms here, thank you for raising wise citizens.

  16. Wow! This really hit home. My child is half African American and half Senegalese….soooooooo you could imagine how this hits home for me. We also reside in Chicago which has a multiplicity of issues right now. I have so much to say, but I will come back later since I am working. Thanks for the article!

  17. tstoudamire, you’ve got an “African American” baby too? Wow, I love it! I bet we have tons we could discuss.

  18. Nadira, I can completely relate. I have a 4 year old LBB and this has weighed on my mind since we had our first ultrasound. I remember almost being in tears because my pregnant mind conjured up every possible bad scenarios. It felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I love my LBB and life has been a blessing since he has joined my life but I still worry about his future and how the prepare him for what the world may throw him.

    Now I am pregnant again, probably with a LBG and it has set off a whole nother set of worries.

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