Fat Girls in Black Bodies Excerpt
Categories: Excerpt Health & Healing Society & Politics
I learned the art of war in fighting weight stigma right in my backyard. Sadly, my family and community members were the first enemies of my body. There may have been an instance or two when my family stood up for me, but overall, I knew if I was to survive this fight I was thrown in, I’d have to do most of the heavy lifting myself. Over time, I shaped my defenses to be skillful and strategic. I learned how to discern looks about my body and shut them down before anyone fixed their lips to say a word. I started to understand the infiltration of White supremacy in this space. The pressure to conform to European standards of beauty far outweighs the discussion on weight and health (Patton 2006). Much of what is peddled in the Black community about diabetes, high blood pressure and incidences of stroke focuses much more on assimilation than remedy (Melton 2018). It is about eating what they say and doing activities that they approve to have a body that meets their guidelines.
For example, I was always told that eating salad was the best way to health and weight loss. It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I realized I did not like lettuce. When I was ready to start cooking again out of the love I had for the craft, I began to realize there are so many other vegetables that can provide the same, if not better, nutrients. I realized I didn’t have to pigeonhole my food choices for the sake of doing it the “right” way. I didn’t have to make my palate conform to European standards. To add, dancing has always been a staple in the Black community and in my family. It is so common to break out into dance sessions that get your body moving. We dance when we clean, cook, mourn and celebrate. We’re always moving if there’s a beat. I did not need Jane Fonda’s help. I did not need to do whatever the guidelines were of that stupid national fitness standard test in school. I just needed to be myself. My body knew what was good for me.
The fear and shame of living in a fat body come dressed in the same racist, fatphobic bullshit the West has been selling for centuries. And we eat it up (pun intended). We eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. We look past the confounding variables seen to impact our bodies and lived experiences. We cast off our heritage and legacy of full-bodied dynasties for the sake of acceptance on this side of the world that will never fully accept our bodies as equal (Love 2018). Even as Lizzo has used her platform to call out the industry, looking fabulous in her leotards, her twerking and flute playing will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes when we start talking about what should be considered real beauty.
White supremacy is a double- edged sword, cutting as it enters and departs. White supremacy has cut the psyches of White folk, having them believe that their mediocrity is supreme, while chipping away the excellence of Black folk to have us believe that our best will never be good enough. White bodies have become the standard, leaving Black bodies to fight for the scraps of validation within our own communities, when we could easily define a new standard. For Black communities who buy into diet culture, we fat Black folk realize we have no dwelling place even among those who look like us. In our communities, we seek refuge constantly, but often never find it. Where is one to go when there is no clear sign of safety? Who will deliver us from the incessant critique of our family and peers? Perhaps Black Jesus.