NY Times’ ‘Black Women And Fat’ Just Another Cheap Shot For Clicks

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NY Times Black WomenI may have a strong love for the written word, but this barrage of press about Black women that either bashes or boxes them in makes even me less sympathetic about the fall of newspapers.

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I’m sure these intentionally attention-seeking articles do much for the bottom line, but it’s coming at the expense of groups that deserve better. The latest offense is the New York Times published op-ed, “Why Are Black Women Fat,” in which the author, Alice Randall, of the piece calls for a “body-culture revolution in Black America” in light of growing obesity and diabetes rates among the Black community.

Yes, health is a problem within the community, but it’s one that’s just as American as peach cobbler.

To that end, if you’re going to address a widespread issue as it relates to a specific community, why not do so within context?

Randall writes:

How many middle-aged White women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one.

But 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.

And here we are again: victim blaming and self-loathing.

Yes, cultural attitudes are a problem among certain sects of the Black community, but guess what the bigger issues are? First, let’s start with using White women as the control group. That’s problematic in of itself, though even if you are going to use them as the “model,” one should highlight how differences in social and economic equality between Blacks and Whites make the proper diet and exercise regimens Randall is advocating for all the more harder to attain.

The same can be said of access to health care and nutritional education. All of these are leading factors in the fight against obesity, and it’s disingenuous at the very least to make an argument about health without listing them in full detail.

And yet, Randall says:

I live in Nashville. There is an ongoing rivalry between Nashville and Memphis. In Black Nashville, we like to think of ourselves as the squeaky-clean brown town best known for our colleges and churches. In contrast, Black Memphis is known for its music and bars and churches. We often tease the city up the road by saying that in Nashville we have a church on every corner and in Memphis they have a church and a liquor store on every corner. Only now the saying goes, there’s a church, a liquor store and a dialysis center on every corner in Black Memphis.

The billions that we are spending to treat diabetes is money that we don’t have for education reform or retirement benefits, and what’s worse, it’s estimated that the total cost of America’s obesity epidemic could reach almost $1 trillion by 2030 if we keep on doing what we have been doing.

She then asserts about Black women, “WE have to change,” and goes on to talk about eating egg whites, taking Zumba classes, and remaking the notion of what constitutes as soul food. It all sounds so easy – to a person with the means and knowledge to do so. Such is not a reality for many, which means this “WE” Randall speaks of goes far beyond just Black women and the thick-thigh-loving Black men Randall believes enable them.

Therein lies the problem with her essay and others bemoaning presumed problems within our community, i.e. why Black women are single (a point which has since proven to be a grossly exaggerated issue), why Black women ought to date White men (does miscegenation cure disease, too?), why Black women ought to give Katy Perry another listen, and so forth. It’s getting sillier, and thusly, more offensive with each passing headline.

How much longer do Black women and the rest of us – that is, anyone else who knows better than to over simplify for sport – have to continue enduring these asinine opines about Black women that distort statistics to suit a pseudo-well-intentioned argument that shamefully generalizes an entire race of people? If you won’t knock it off, could some of your editors at least present pieces that offer critical thinking and thoughtful analysis?

In the meantime, congratulations to the writers for having their works go viral, but shame on them for using shallow arguments to attention whore and boost their own profiles under the guise of advocacy.

What do you think?

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick

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