Matt Lamb reported this in the College Fix on August 21, 2020:
A professor who regularly writes about race and health issues recently argued that the stigma surrounding obesity is linked to racism.
Sabrina Strings, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine told CBS News that the medical community’s approach to weight issues stems from anti-blackness and oppression.
She told CBS News on August 20:
We cannot deny the fact that fat-phobia is rooted in anti-Blackness. That’s simply an historical reality. Today, when people talk about it, they often claim that they don’t intend to be anti-Black … they don’t intend all of these negative associations, and yet they exist already, so whenever people start trafficking in fat-phobia, they are inherently picking up on these historical forms of oppression.
The interview came ahead of a CBS News special airing this Sunday but available on Youtube called “Fat Shaming.”
Strings explained that this is not a new a phenomenon, but goes back to the slave trade:
With the dawn of the slave trade, skin color was the original sorting mechanism to determine who was slave and who was free. But as you might imagine, with slavery progressing through the century, skin color became a less reliable source of sorting various populations. Therefore, they decided to re-articulate racial categories, adding new characteristics, and one of the things that the colonists believed was that Black people were inherently more sensuous, that people love sex and they love food, and so the idea was that Black people had more venereal diseases, and that Black people were inherently obese, because they lack self-control. And of course, self-control and rationality, after the Enlightenment, were characteristics that were deemed integral to Whiteness.
Strings said that white Protestants tried to show they were “morally upright and racially proper” by eating responsibly and staying fit.
The professor argued that Protestants believed “if you did not show temperance, that was evidence that you were one of the savages, and also, that you were un-Christian.”
The idea of obesity issues and weight management being tied to racism is not a new topic for Strings.
In July, she told the Huffington Post that the body-mass index is “racist.”
“It is racist, and also sexist, to use mostly white men within your study population and then try to extrapolate that and create norms and expectations for women and people of color,” Strings said.
She also wrote in the New York Times in a May editorial that black people are sick because of … slavery.
“The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy,” Strings wrote.
“It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health,” she said.
Strings released a book in May 2019 titled “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat-Phobia.”
Read more …
Blacks do not have a monopoly on obesity, which is as endemic in this country with whites as with blacks. Accordingly, it takes a stretch of the imagination to link fat-phobia to anti-Black racism.
There is no doubt, however, that racism and fat-phobia can be linked in an individual black through the intersectionality of oppressions, without linking obesity and its negative associations to all blacks and the history of black slavery.
Fatphobia – hatred or dislike of fat people.
Fat shaming – denigration of someone because they are fat.
Victims of fat-shaming and fatness can experience sizeism, aversive behavior, bullying, and microaggression. Through intersectionality, their fatness can synergize with other oppressions in their own, customized matrix of domination. This can enhance self-awareness but also lead to internalized sizeism, depression, and loss of self-esteem.
Since fatness is a reversible oppression, its victims can reactively crash-diet to reach a culturally normative weight, exercise compulsively, or subscribe to a commercial weight reduction program (a form of capitalist exploitation). If those measures fail, they can try bulimia which, regrettably, can cause malnutrition, dental erosion and vitamin deficiencies. When all else fails, there is self-acceptance with the help of support groups on the fatosphere, the fat acceptance movement, and the body positivity movement.
Note: Most of the terms used in fat-shaming are too distasteful to list and can be triggers of emotional distress to the overweight. Preferable synonyms for fat or obese include ample, stout, chubby, plump, large, large framed, big boned, on the heavy side, full figured, full bodied, plus sized, curvy, curvaceous, voluptuous, Churchillian, and Rubenesque.
Anti-blackness – bias and prejudice against blacks based on the color of their skin.
Anti-blackness has been postulated as the root cause of all racism and oppression, spilling over to non-blacks with dark skin, such as Indians and Egyptians. It can even be manifest within the black community as internalized racism and colorism.
Racism – irrational bias, bigotry, hate, prejudice, or discrimination against an entire race or against an individual solely because of his or her race, as practiced by racists.
The term racism usually describes the bias and discrimination of whites against blacks. In its more inclusive meaning, racism includes bias and discrimination by dominant whites against all racial minorities, including Asians, white Hispanics, native Americans, Muslims, and Jews.
Racism requires a belief by the racist in white supremacy, the superiority of the white race based on the accomplishments of European whites when compared to other races. In the strictest sense, only whites of European origin are capable of racism since only they have the institutional power to oppress other races and the propensity to use it. Other races can only be victims of racism, but never the perpetrators.
Note: Bias against Jews has been attributed to both racism and anti-Semitism, an example of race as a social construct.
Intersectionality – the conceptualization of multiple social identities coexisting in an individual, along with multiple synergistic oppressions.
For example, a victim of oppression can identify as poor, black, homosexual, and female. These come together within the individual to form that individual’s composite social identity, which can then make her vulnerable to multiple forms of oppression intersecting as a system, each component of which is acting synergistically with the others.
An individual can also have multiple social identities that, rather than being synergistic, are in internal conflict. Such disparate subjectivities can result in a hybrid identity that is both oppressor and oppressed, e.g., a white (oppressor), affluent (oppressor), cisgender (oppressor), fat (oppressed), disabled (oppressed) female (oppressed).