April is National Minority Health Month. The Office Of Minority Health was created in 1986, to spread awareness to different ethnic and racial groups concerning racial health disparity. As I reflect on some of the information that I have come across and as I work to bring awareness to my community, a few things crossed my mind.
I’ve wondered, why are we at such high risks when it comes to Heart Disease (High Blood Pressure), Diabetes and Obesity? Well, there are a few things that have been on my mind which simply breaks my heart. You see, we have been conditioned from generation to generation, to constantly bury our pain, our value and our worth. We have been taught to put ourselves last because there was always something more important than US!
First, we have never been seen as a priority inside or outside of our community. I do not remember growing up and being taught that my health mattered. We weren’t spoken to about eating healthy or paying attention to our bodies for any signs that something might be wrong. We only went to the doctor when it was absolutely necessary and we learned to not complain because there was too much going on around us, within the home, our community and the world.
Second, our existence has been spent, playing catch up. We have been in a constant fight to been seen and treated as equals to our white counterparts. Systematic racism has creatively destroyed every and any attempt at that, and so we have always been behind the proverbial eight ball. When has there been time for us to worry about our health, physical or otherwise, when we have to work harder, study harder and just plain BE harder, in order for us to survive?
Third, with things like “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment”, our mistrust in Immunizations; questioning the benefits of them versus the thought that they have been created to kill us (black and brown people) off, along with a lack of proper health care; which in turn limits our options as to the kind of medical treatment available to us, is it any wonder that the impact of these diseases would be greater in our communities or that we may not in fact be so quick to believe that the medical community has OUR best interests at heart?
Last and most certainly not least, this reason I believe is the most heartbreaking. This world has not been kind to us AT ALL. Since our ancestors from West Africa, were brought to this continent in 1619, we were robbed of our identity and treated with an inhumanity that still exists, in part, to this very day.
So, how did we handle such mistreatment? We did what anyone does when they are in pain, we looked for comfort. Except, the comfort that we found were in things that have contributed to the very health issues that either kill us or threaten to. Soul food provides shelter from the storms of life because it was always made in love. It made and makes us feel the love that we do not receive from the world. We indulge in it as a way to fill the hole in our hearts and we see it as an unspoken pledge of love and community.
The vices that we use to numb us against the daily attacks of racism and discrimination are found on the corners of inner cities everywhere. Need some liquor? some cigarettes?, they are more accessible to us than anything else that we can get our hands on. Have you noticed the number of fast food restaurants in our neighborhoods, enticing us with dollar menus so that we can afford to kill ourselves with food that is high in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol???
Although, we may not have been socialized to take care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and mentally, health is wealth. We do not have to give in to the lure of unhealthy living and practices that by design have been created to destroy us. By supporting one another in loving and valuing ourselves, we can turn things around one step, one day at a time. I love my community and I just would like to see us live our best lives. We all have purpose and we must do all that we can to fulfill that which we have been called to do. We matter and it’s time that we start acting like it.