Alice Randall, a contributing writer for the New York Times, would like for you to think that I am an anomaly.
I work out and I like to work out as much as possible.
I like to sweat, listen to awful house music, and do swats until I get a leg spasm, fall over, and need to be lifted off of the exercise floor by steroid-enhanced looking men wearing white tank tops.
It’s not always easy. There are always more reasons to stay at home then to go to the gym. However, I have committed myself to working out because I believe in being healthy, not only for myself, but for my family.
In her Op-Ed for the New York Times, Mrs. Randall makes two astonishing assertions in regards to Black women and our health. She says:
1.) That Black women “want to be fat”.
2.) That our men like us fat.
These statements, supported by quotes from poets and blues singers shocked me. The truth is that I wanted to read Mrs. Randall’s article and discover new information that dispelled the urban myths and images of Black women in the kitchen frying chitterlings, making corn bread, and eating greens 365 days a year. I wanted for her to surprise me - to reveal to me that despite what she proclaimed in the title of her piece, that she in fact was there to tell the world that though our bodies may retain salt (and water) at higher levels, or because we have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as Hypothyroidism- that Black women are finding new and innovative ways to stay fit.
I wanted her to tell me what I already know, that now more than ever, Black women of all ages are becoming more physically active. Whereas twenty years ago Black women were confined to Jazzercise and Step Aerobics at our neighborhood gyms, now many Black women consider a wider diversity of options for physical activities ranging from boot camps, racquetball, golf, kayaking, and running marathons in ways that had not been considered in decades past.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Randall mentioned none of that. Instead, she oversimplified a national health epidemic that is in fact, not specific to Black women, and presented it under the antiquated argument that in effort to please our juke-joint playing, pot-liquor drinking, bbq-eating men, Black women choose unhealthy eating habits.
I can’t speak for an overweight person raised to value being “big” and I wish that she wouldn’t speak for me.
I take issue with her assertion that Black women are not wise enough to choose their health over archaic cultural standards. Clearly being healthy has been in style since Oprah told us so in 1988. Duh.
I take issue with her assertion that Black men force Black women to make unhealthy lifestyle choices in effort to remain desirable. When has a man ever forced a group of Black women to do anything…other than tithe?
More than anything else, I take issue with her slanted and unrepresentative argument, made in the name of all Black women, which provided no more valuable information than that of what people outside of the Black community assume from hearing rap songs or looking at Tyler Perry movies.
Next time Mrs. Randall would like to enlighten the world on the cultural nuances of Black women and health, I encourage her to speak to someone other than those in a similar position as her. If she had, she would have communicated the truth which is that there is no one reason why some people are fat just like there is no one reason to explain why some people are skinny, or fit, or healthy.
[Picture courtesy of minglecity.com]