Four out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.
What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be. — Alice Randall, in NYTimes
This week, I would like to receive comments from all women, black or white and everything in between, who are fat because they want to be. Then I want to hear from all women who are NOT fat, but want to be.
I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of comments.
The writer, an author and professor, makes the usual pedagogical and academic maneuvers, citing historical and cultural arguments that convince people who find reality’s 3-dimensional presentation unpalatable. She cites another author’s conclusion that the fat black woman’s body “functions as a site of resistance to both gendered and racialized oppression.” We stupid white males probably think it has more to do with sugary beverages, fried food, and economics.
But she also cites her own experience.
I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight. My lawyer husband is one…..Another friend, a woman of color who is a tenured professor, told me that her husband, also a tenured professor and of color, begged her not to lose “the sugar down below” when she embarked on a weight-loss program.
Well, heading into this we all knew that if there was any blame to be assigned, it was going to be to men.
I’m also reminded of a line I read in one of Jim Harrison’s many novels about white midwesterners. Noting the ample girth of many married rural women he sums up men’s attitudes: Why would I want a small wife when I could have a big one?
Nevertheless, Prof. Randall cuts through the crap and draws the correct conclusion:
I call on every black woman for whom it is appropriate to commit to getting under 200 pounds or to losing the 10 percent of our body weight that often results in a 50 percent reduction in diabetes risk. Sleeping better may be key, as recent research suggests that lack of sleep is a little-acknowledged culprit in obesity. But it is not just sleep, exercise and healthy foods we need to solve this problem — we also need wisdom.
In other words, just set aside what is irrelevant, even if it might be true. There may be cultural factors (or not); there are husbands and lovers to consider (or ignore). But this is life or death and everything else is less significant. Fat is bad. Fight it.
As for the rest of us, it’s more room on the bus seat and in the airplane. Win-win.