Will Black boys and men ever be safe in America?
“You’re having a boy,” said Diddy, pointing to my belly, as I interviewed him inside of a movie trailer in Los Angeles. “Oh that’s definitely a boy in there!” said Usher, as I interviewed him backstage at a concert in Minneapolis. “A boy,” said Idris Elba, when I was two weeks away from my due date and interviewing him at an NYC hotel. In 2007, I had the unique experience of traveling the country and interviewing celebrities for work—while hugely pregnant. My husband and I didn’t want to know what we were having so it was fun to ask my interview subjects for their predictions. And every single person, from Jeezy to Bow Wow said the same thing: I was having a boy. And it wasn’t just the celebrities I interviewed—random strangers, my friends and family, it was unanimous. Based on all the oldwives tales and just gut feelings, the world said I was having a boy. So when my midwife said, “It’s a girl!’ I was literally shocked. I mean, I knew that folks were just guessing. But for some reason, it had made me absolutely certain that I was having a boy. But nope, they put a nine-pound baby girl in my arms. And after the shock wore off, one of my first thoughts was—Thank God it’s not a boy. I hadn’t even realized how much I had been figuratively holding my breath while I was pregnant. But I felt a palpable sense of relief that I had a daughter and not a son. Because I knew the chances of my son being pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike just for being Black. Because I knew the chances of my son being stopped and frisked. Because I knew the chances of my son being considered a person of interest as soon as he hit puberty. And because I knew the chances of my son being shot with his hands in the air. This is not to say that these things don’t happen to Black girls too. But I know, as a parent, which gender is safer to raise in this country. I feel like I have more control over what happens to my daughter. It may be a false sense of security. But I can keep her inside longer. I can monitor her clothing and mannerisms closer. I can speak her language and just by osmosis she can pick up on how I want her to behave. I wouldn’t be able to do that with my son. No matter what prep school I sent him to. No matter how high I made him wear his pants. No matter how I taught him how to be polite, be respectful, be aware—he could be misunderstood. He could be judged. He could be profiled. He could be feared. He could be shot dead in broad daylight with his hands in the air. —Aliya S. King Aliya S. King is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, Keep The Faith, with recording artist Faith Evans. She has written for VIBE since 1998. Find her at aliyasking.com and @aliyasking.