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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