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The Black Health Dilemma

A study was recently published in the archives of dermatology addressing the issue of black women avoiding exercise to maintain their hairstyles. As a black male growing up in a predominantly black community, this news doesn’t surprise me at all. From my high school days during required gym hours, I remember girls finding every excuse to avoid participation. Most would put their sweats on over their jeans to avoid being marked unprepared and then spend the rest of the gym period siting on the bleachers with their friends with their tail comb in their hand. This mentality is seeded early in the minds of our black females with parents perming their kids’ hair at a young age and telling them not to sweat it out because it’ll cost a lot of money to fix. So it’s to no surprise that most find exercising a difficult task when they are diagnosed with diabetes and other heart related ailments.

The controversy over Gabby Douglas’s hair in the 2012 Olympics is a perfect example. The tweets about her hair from other black females were abundant. When asked by co-workers of other races to explain what the big deal was, I couldn’t find any better way of explaining it, than calling it what it was, superficiality from ignorant people. A black girl wins the gold medal and all some African Americans could think about is how her hair looked. However, it’s those same girls who criticized Gabby’s hairstyle that will have to learn how to inject themselves with insulin at the age of 50. It’s impossible for a person to play a sport, or exercise properly without sweating. When girls sweat, their hair has the tendency to resort to its natural state. And because we deem texture of black hair in its natural state unattractive, girls put appearance over health.

Exercise however, is only half the problem. Diet is something that plagues the entire black community. Eating healthy requires one to make conscious choices on a daily basis, not to mention it is more expensive. It’s hard to find a salad for less than $6, while a burger from your favorite fast food “restaurant” costs as little as $1. With such a disparity in costs, the most economical decision is to eat off of the dollar menu. This is worsened by the state of the economy and the rising cost of living.

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However, if you look at the money that African Americans put into expensive designer brands on a regular basis there is no excuse for relying on processed foods as our sole source of nutrition. One should not be eating $4 fast food meals while wearing $500+ clothing. If you have that much to spend you should also be making sure that you are keeping up with your health and not just trying to keep up with the latest fashion trends. After all, you can’t wear designer stuff in a hospital bed.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on fashion, African Americans have to learn to make a conscious effort to invest in their own health because what good is having $500.00 shoes and a beautiful hairstyle when your body is deteriorating? The importance of beauty is embedded into females at an early age, and parents  have to be conscious of what they tell their young daughters. Perms are expensive, and it is a fact that parents warn their young daughters about messing up their new perms. If something can persuade you not to exercise, maybe it’s not best for you to have it.  With medical costs already more expensive than most Americans can afford, ruining a new perm should be the least of your worries. The most rational decision is to do everything in your power to stay out of the hospital, and that means to put your health over your fashion. This means you will have to make a few sacrifices, but it will pay off.  You can spend the extra money and buy the healthier ingredients now, or you can give that money (tens and thousands of dollars) to hospitals 20 years from now after suffering that looming stroke or a heart attack. In the long run, it’s actually cheaper to invest in health now than it is buying cheap food that will eventually have you making trips back and forth to the hospital and doctor. The decision is yours.

Written By Will R