by Maya Cade of A Tribe Called News

Credit: Vibe
Cred­it: Vibe

When moth­er and daugh­ter duo (Ellen Ector and Lana Ector respec­tive­ly) released “Black Girls Work­out Too” exer­cise tapes in ear­ly 2013, black girls and wom­en rejoiced. Final­ly some­thing for us’ many thought. Final­ly some­thing for us, was exact­ly right.

In my expe­ri­ence (and the expe­ri­ence of many of my #care­free­black­girl friends), we’ve come across neg­a­tive state­ments when express­ing our desire to work­out or pro­mote a health­ier lifestyle.

(NOTE: The­se sen­ti­ments come from black/minority men, fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends alike.)

I love you just the way you are

“You don’t have to exer­cise for me, I love you just the way you are.”

This is usu­al­ly well-mean­ing, but is often dis­mis­sive espe­cial­ly when 82 per­cent of Black wom­en are obe­se, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC). The lead­ing cause of death among blacks 20 and over is hyper­ten­sion.

But beyond being dis­mis­sive, many sen­ti­ments like this one (espe­cial­ly com­ing from our male coun­ter­parts) are root­ed in the feti­za­tion of black wom­en. The “love” is often an objec­ti­fi­ca­tion and fix­a­tion of how black women’s bod­ies should look. it is often thought that exer­cis­ing will some­how harm what black women’s bod­ies should be.

Though this “coke-bot­tle” shape is every­where from music videos to Insta­gram, many of our peers for­get that every black wom­an has self-agen­cy or con­trol over what her ide­al body type, shape and weight is.

#Black­Dont­Crack

“Girl, don’t wor­ry about work­ing out. You know that black don’t crack.”

We’ve all heard the apho­rism, “black don’t crack. While we real­ly do have this incred­i­ble abil­i­ty to look age­less (I won’t deny it, I’ve seen Nia Long and Sade before), we do also under­go seri­ous health trou­bles being African-Amer­i­can wom­en.

But when “black don’t crack” is said as a way to delay exer­cise and a healthy life­time, this it becomes haz­ardous.

Let’s break it down:

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Do you think the­se ide­als pre­vent black wom­en from exer­cis­ing and poten­tial­ly con­tribute to unhealthy lifestyles?

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27 Comments on "‘Black Don’t Crack’ and Other Cultural Messages That Keep Black Women From Exercising"

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Momo Aries

Me either…I think that would a weird thing to say about some­one being obe­se. The two real­ly have noth­ing to do with each oth­er. I’ve only ever heard “Black don’t crack” in regards to our facial fea­tures and the abil­i­ty to look age­less.

MalikaiDragonSlayer

In your last sen­tence you said what I was say­ing but in your first you dis­agreed with me, so I’m a lit­tle con­fused as to what exact­ly you believe.

ama

what I meant was that a lot of peo­ple got fat and thick twist­ed to the point where fat chicks are the new thick. that’s why I said real thick chicks have the shape nat­u­ral­ly not from excess

ama
History(USA) sur­round­ing the­se issues is inter­est­ing as well. We did not eat well dur­ing slav­ery as that was­nt a pri­or­i­ty for mas­ters who pro­vid­ed food for the most part. Share­crop­pers grew mar­ket crops and small house­hold plots so nutri­tion was­nt opti­mal tgen either. North­ern black peo­ple did­nt earn enough to buy the most nutri­tion rich food and by then the sen­ti­ment that slave food was our “cul­tur­al food” had set in so we inter­nal­ized this and were still being vic­tim­ized. We are still falling dor this even though the knowl­edge is out there and we should know bet­ter. In my… Read more »
NaturalRebel

Yeah, that sounds a bit off.. I know I haven’t seen every black wom­an before but OBESE? Not over­weight, but obe­se?? It’s just off to me..

Robyn
Obe­si­ty have lev­els, which I only learned when I start­ed see­ing a dieti­cian and bio­ki­neti­cist on a reg­u­lar basis. Any BMI mea­sure­ment of more than 30 is obe­se lev­el 1, over 35 is lev­el 2 and over 40 is class 3, the lat­ter being mor­bid­ly obe­se. My BMI is cur­rent­ly 33 (brought down from 38 in the past 8 months, and still work­ing hard to get it to at least 22) but my friends and peo­ple that see me ran­dom­ly would describe me as chub­by, a lit­tle over­weight, husky etc. They would nev­er think that I am ACTUALLY obe­se. Keep… Read more »
ama

great expla­na­tion!!

jjangjjong

“This is usu­al­ly well-mean­ing, but is often dis­mis­sive espe­cial­ly when 82 per­cent of Black wom­en are obe­se, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC).”

I doubt that 82 per­cent of black wom­en are obe­se, or is this specif­i­cal­ly refer­ring to black wom­en in the US?

Clarisse

Inter­est­ing arti­cle!

Lisa

Inter­est­ing, I’m 5“3 and if I were 150 I’d be scared. The small­est I’ve been as an adult is a size 6 and about 165 lbs. I do have some extra “assets“‘ though lol.

Chinwe

:-) Girl, you car­ry your weight well! I’m bare­ly fit­ting size 8.

MalikaiDragonSlayer

I also feel like this arti­cle is sort of improp­er­ly asso­ci­at­ing be what peo­ple call “thick” with being fat. I think they can be and often are entire­ly dif­fer­ent. You can be thick, that is to say wide hips, big booty, and the like, with­out being “fat” or even over­weight. This arti­cle is well mean­ing but I feel like it point­ing to the wrong things as if they are the root of the issue and they’re not in my opin­ion.

ama
I dont think thick and fat are two dif­fer­ent things for the vast major­i­ty of peo­ple when you look at the actu­al num­bers on the scale and the bmi charts. I per­son­al­ly only get a mini-donk when I am fat. I have a friend who prides her­self on her donk and is called thick even though she weighs over 300 lbs and is mor­bid­ly obe­se. She is also white and nev­er has her own men even glance twice at her accord­ing to her not that she is look­ing at them but the point is a 300 lb body will have… Read more »
A Tribe Called News

Thanks for shar­ing. Those are two dif­fer­ent things but was bas­ing my state­ments off what the CDC des­ig­nates as over­weight.

Ms. Vee

The men­tion­ing of your point, by the arti­cle, would’ve been spot on. Many BW fear not being “fetishized” and erro­neous­ly equate out of shape/borderline obe­se bod­ies to being “thick”.

Ama
That point is in the arti­cle near Coke bot­tle shape. I total­ly agree with that sen­ti­ment when I gained 30 lbs I was telling my 63 year old male cous­in I want­ed to get back down 50 lbs to my pre injury weight of 130 he told me girl don’t wor­ry bout it you what we call thick down here (Flori­da) . im like im thick in New York too lol but in actu­al­i­ty I was fat, tech­ni­cal­ly obe­se, and could not fit any of my clothes. My cous­in was try­ing to be nice but loves to cook, loves to… Read more »
Camille

I don’t think that the “black wom­en enjoy being fat” stereo­type comes from black wom­en. The rea­sons that black wom­en strug­gle with their weights are a lot more com­pli­cat­ed than van­i­ty.

ama

I think part of it has. I havw heard bw say how hap­py they are bein fat. Monique was a celebri­ty exam­ple. One of my friends always said this and so every­body was sur­prised when she got weight loss surgery.

Camille

Black wom­en being rep­re­sent­ed in enter­tain­ment as fat pre­dates Monique going all the way back to the Mam­my stereo­type that white peo­ple devel­oped right after slav­ery end­ed. We may like Monique, but those big sassy black wom­en char­ac­ters are there for white people’s amuse­ment- not ours. Also, peo­ple who say they like being fat come in all col­ors. Check out the Fat Accep­tance Move­ment. Most of those wom­en are white.

A Tribe Called News

Agreed!

LBell

THANK YOU for say­ing this. When you con­sid­er what many black wom­en have been through and con­tin­ue to go through in the States (I’m not going to speak for oth­er coun­tries) it’s a mir­a­cle some of us man­age to even get out of bed in the morn­ing. Emo­tion­al eat­ing has a whole new mean­ing when it comes to being a black wom­an.

Chinwe
I can relate to this arti­cle. I’ve always been skin­ny and mus­cu­lar due to an active lifestyle (includ­ing track and field). My body type was high­ly dis­cour­aged by cer­tain men, wom­en, fam­i­ly, etc. and I was pres­sured to gain weight. When I did a com­plete 180 and stopped exer­cis­ing (and stopped eat­ing healthy), I gained 25–30 lbs, extra thighs, and extra butt … as well as extra atten­tion from men. Mean­while some fam­i­ly and friends were hap­py to see me with the extra weight. One ex even enjoyed con­tribut­ing to my weight gain (with his cook­ing) and want­ed me to… Read more »
MalikaiDragonSlayer

I have nev­er heard “black don’t crack” be used as a rea­son not to work out or eat healthy. And def­i­nite­ly not if some­one is obe­se.

Ms. Vee

“But beyond being dis­mis­sive, many sen­ti­ments like this one (espe­cial­ly com­ing from our male coun­ter­parts) are root­ed in the feti­za­tion of black women.The “love” is often an objec­ti­fi­ca­tion and fix­a­tion of how black women’s bod­ies should look. it is often thought that exer­cis­ing will some­how harm what black women’s bod­ies should be.”

I have yet to under­stand how the appre­ci­a­tion of a phys­i­cal­ly fit body from the oppo­site sex is fetishiza­tion. Yes we should exer­cise for self sat­is­fac­tion and health. But what is wrong with your part­ner find­ing your efforts attrac­tive? Makes no sense that it would deter one from exer­cise.

Jack

I feel it can be be used as a deter­rent when the per­son already doesn’t want to workout/eat healthy. I’ve heard peo­ple not want­i­ng to lose weight for fear of los­ing their curves, butts, hips, etc… Black wom­en are seen has hav­ing to have a volup­tuous body and if she doesn’t have that shape wom­en can often be teased or shamed when they don’t have this fetishized, stereo­typ­i­cal black wom­en body.

cryssi

I’ve nev­er been dis­cour­aged from work­ing out

A Tribe Called News

I’m glad that you’ve had that expe­ri­ence but that isn’t true for all BW. Thanks for read­ing.

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