Unfortunately, not everyone is dealt the same hand. More times than not, we are not even playing the same game. One group could be playing the easy game of crazy eights, while one group is playing the complicated game of poker. Becoming healthy looks different in all ethnicities and cultures in America. Although I may be biased, there is a stark difference in what it takes an African-American to become healthy, versus other cultures. In this post, I will be giving an inside look into what it takes for a Black man to learn how to navigate through the tribulations of achieving his optimal health levels.
It all starts at home.
A few days before writing this I got into a deep conversation about the culture of black people with one of my staff. He made a valid point that our habits today are based on yesterday’s experiences. What we do in the present day is the result of what we went through in the past. This includes things we witnessed other people do/did not do. For example, because I saw that my dad was not morbidly obese after drinking Coca-Cola all the time, I thought it was okay to consume sugary drinks. I did not know that it could affect different systems in the body, killing us from the inside out. This also goes for the child who sees their mother going for a run every morning. This could influence the child to do the same when they are of age. The adult black community needs to do a better job of teaching healthy habits within the walls of their own home. This could be achieved by first staying educated with the latest health, wellness and fitness news. Technology is way too advanced to not know what antioxidants are or what foods are best for Vitamin C. Now that the information is retained, there needs to be a smooth transition to becoming an educator. There are a number of ways to teach, but it is imperative to learn how to effectively teach information in a way that is catered to the individual’s learning style.
Less money, more problems.
Although the average salary of Black Americans is going up, there is still a high prevalence of poverty in black and brown communities. This in itself is an everlasting spiral when it comes to the hurdles it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. One factor that is affected is the lack of fresh produce and other healthy food. The corner stores of the hood are riddled with high fructose corn syrup and Red 40
food coloring. The local markets have brown lettuce and dry limes. Fresh, juicy, ripe, produce is not something that people in impoverished neighborhoods can expect. Oftentimes, organic food is more expensive than food that is not organic. Processed foods cost less money and have a longer shelf life. This fact is something that could contribute to the decision to purchase the bag of Skittles over the case of kiwis. Growing up, there were a lot more small cakes coursing through my veins than fruit. My dad was more inclined to buy the former because he knew it would last longer (if I didn’t end up devouring it the first day it hits the cabinets). Even though I was not particularly fond of fruit in my younger years, my dad was not willing to risk his hard earned money on food that would sit and rot within three days.
History does not have to repeat itself.
To keep the enslaved working hard and for long hours, food high in carbs and fat were given to them. This is something that has been passed down for generations. Subconsciously, we are quick to reach for the chips and pizza because of how calorically dense they are. The black and brown community disproportionately suffers from major health issues including but not limited to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. We tend to not know what we’re doing wrong while we’re in the midst of doing it. There is a staggering amount of black people who do not know just how bad the food they’re eating is. One example is not knowing about the prevalence of trans fat in margarine, which could lead to atherosclerosis and other heart complications. This could be mitigated by eating consciously. One habit could be tracking what you eat and looking each food item up. This can help educate you on what you’re consuming and could be the start to eating healthier. This lack of knowledge extends to exercise as well. My dad’s workout advice to me growing up was to just do push ups. I listened and grew a chest bigger than most elementary school students, but there was not any sense of balance. I did not know what a leg day was, or how to improve my cardiorespiratory endurance. The sad truth is, most adults, especially in the black and brown communities, do not know how to do basic exercises to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Either that, or they know and just don’t do it themselves. We need to do better at understanding what our bodies need so it could give us the life we want to live.
It takes a neighborhood to raise a child.
That particular saying could not be more true. A couple of days before writing this I walked around a particularly “rough” neighborhood. One of those areas you can’t walk ten feet without seeing a drug addict or hear the terrible music drug dealers/aspiring rappers play from their cars. One thing I noticed was the grim look on most of the people’s faces. It is the opposite of the neighborhood I live in (predominately white). When a child, or anyone for that matter, sees nothing but grim faces, it affects them psychologically, eventually affecting them physically. What happens is something called the mirroring effect, when we subconsciously mimic those around us. The saddened face can lead to more stress, which is commonly known to alter almost all systems of the body. With this known, people in all communities, not just Black ones, should keep in mind their facial expressions while walking around. You never know how it could affect someone else, especially an impressionable child.
To wrap it up.
Becoming a healthy Black man in America was not always as easy as it is today. We are at an age in society in which we could learn anything with a click of a button. Historically speaking, there were systems in place to keep the Black man unhealthy. This added to ignorance puts us in the position we are in today. Circumstances can be even better for future generations by educating our youth on what a healthy life looks like. This could be done even on a tight budget. There are a number of things you can do to eat healthier without having to break the bank. If fresh produce is not readily available in your neighborhood, then hopefully there is a way to get to the nearest community that has what you need. We are not our ancestors. We do not have to be force fed garbage anymore. We need to do a better job of being conscious of what we put into our body while educating the next set of leaders at the same time. There is a role each of us plays in the development of those around us. Being aware of our energy while being in public has more benefits than we can imagine. It doesn’t take any of us, it takes all of us.