Monday, May 28, 2012

American Diet: Killing Ourselves Softly with Chemicals

A year ago, my road to becoming health conscious was nonexistent. It was hidden beneath bushes of fast food, fried meals, sweets, and anything else that held no nutritional value but tasted good. It was not until I noticed my parents battling multiple health conditions (that were quite preventable) that I realized I was in dire need of changing my diet. Both of my parents have high blood pressure, diabetes (my father has Type 1) and my mother has been developing a glomus tumor in her brain over her right ear for the past unknown number of years while my father has issues with his digestive system. I was online one day researching diabetes and high blood pressure and happened to come across a link that led me to the alternative health and news site, Natural News. It was love at first click. The Internet Gods had placed a blessing upon me. There were articles on everything from common health ailments to natural remedies to coverage of current events (and the editor was sarcastic and funny). While reading their articles and conducting searches on other sites, it dawned on me that my family’s health problems were the result of the foods they ate. There are several common foods that people consume on a daily basis that is causing a number of health problems: meat, dairy, junk food, and soda.

100% Beef...Growth Hormones...and Carcinogens

By now, most of us have heard that meat is not very healthy; red meat in particular, should be consumed in moderation (very moderate). Few of us will adhere to this advice though. For the most part, we have grown up eating meat and do not plan on cutting back until death. I can say that meat is a staple of the American diet. It is very difficult changing habits that have taken a lifetime developing. Until we begin experiencing health complications caused by our diets, we rarely change our eating habits voluntarily (we take better care of our cars than our bodies).

Eating Organic in Today's Recession

I’d like you to give some thought to vegetarianism. Anyone who I’m with should at least give thought to the lifestyle that I am a part of. If you knew the toxins you were putting in your body then you would truly understand.  
- My Ex (And one of the many reasons why my Ex is my Ex, insert eyes rolling here. PROUD OMNIVORE)
I’m not going to start off on a personal rant about vegetarianism; it’s just something I chose not to be a part of. The only reason I made reference to that bold statement was because I found out there really were numerous toxins that I was putting into my body. This knowledge evaded me before I moved to South Dakota upon last year for an internship. I thought fast food, fried food, and even the “healthier alternatives” from Wally World (Wal-Mart) were fine to eat. Late night college style runs to the nearest fast food joint because it had slipped my mind to eat were not out of the ordinary either. My life was on a one track railroad to diabetes, and or stroke and any difficulties that eating such food would bring me. Things didn’t change for me until my internship.

I recall getting off the airplane at this small airport and being the only Black woman there. I walked up and down the airport to find the intern coordinator for my new job and my new life in the middle of nowhere. (I purposely chose the spot because it was the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) Once I located her (as she was the only Native American woman in the airport, and seemingly the ONLY other minority), we got into the car and she asked me if I needed to go to Wally World for anything. I, of course, needed to get my hot pocket fix. I figured I’d get the family pack so they would last longer. After that, I got a “tour” of the town (which were a Post Office, Bank, small four aisled grocery store, two gas stations, no stop lights, and pharmacy/craft store). I knew my life was going to drastically change. I didn’t however know how much. Needless to say, I shared my huge score of hot pockets and they were gone in less than two days. I was forced to shop around and hunt for food on my small budget.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Black (American) Women are Not the Only Ones Facing Socioeconomic Disadvantages

As a black feminist, I understand the tendency to discuss (whine and complain) the status of black women in the United States. I cannot deny that black women are indeed marginalized in this society. Not only do we constantly concern ourselves with racism but we also have to worry about sexism. Include the matter of ethnicity and immigrant status for some and the load gets heavier (like yours truly who is Haitian). But in the midst of our self-pity we forget that there is a whole world out there full of women who are marginalized and do not enjoy a decent socioeconomic status.

The term socioeconomic advantages, or disadvantages, includes access to, or lack of access to, education, health, employment and income as well as the geographic location one calls home. Studies show that socioeconomic status affects prenatal and childhood development, determines ones education and income, shapes health habits, determines exposure violence and abuse, determines access to health care and social services, affects savings patterns, and contributes to the rich-poor gap (Moss, 2000). Readers should be replying with a resounding “Duh!” All of those things are interconnected including political stability in any given area.

When it comes to the socioeconomic status of black women in the U.S. they are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole. A majority of black women are living at poverty level. Black women are more likely to be exposed to the violence of poor, urban neighborhoods. Black women are more likely to drop out of high school and enter low-paying jobs. Black women are more likely to head single-headed households since America is attempting to arrest every single black man in the vicinity. Black women are more likely to suffer from obesity, heart problems, and breast cancer. And black women are being incarcerated at alarming rates compared to black men, white women, and white men. Well, at least this is gloomy picture that society paints for us and black women eat it up. Not that the statistics are not true to a certain extent (especially the part about incarcerating black males and the rising incarceration rates of black women), but the black woman is being made into the poster child for poverty, violence, drugs, unintelligence, and poor health.

Socioeconomic Disadvantages of Minority Women

It seems more often times than none that if you are born into the right socioeconomic strata that numerous opportunities are available to you and if you aren’t then you’re fighting to get to a place that others are born into. This is the place people tell you that you can get to with hard work. How hard was it for them to be born privileged?  

A socioeconomic disadvantage involves being disadvantaged on two levels. One level is a social level and the other economically. Thus socioeconomic status is measured as income, education, occupation, and where an individual or family stands as far as social classes. When gender is brought into the equation then there is an intersectionality (Feminist sociological theory, Kimberle Crenshaw) Research has shown that race and ethnicity in terms of stratification often determine a person’s socioeconomic status (House & Williams, 2000). Socioeconomic status can affect different of life as well; aspects of life such as education, health, the increase in chances of being raped and homicide.

On an international spectrum women who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage are more prone to be raped or to have less access or none to education, justice, or employment. (Whitman, 2012) However what people fail to realize is that while there is quite a bit of injustice on the international spectrum pertaining to minority women who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage, such is in our back yards too. To be born as a minority women in the United States for instance does not merit an easy life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Swept Under the Rug: The Incarceration of Black Women

Largely as a result of the war on drugs, women of all races—great numbers of them low-level offenders—have been swept up into the nation's correctional system, often for long mandatory sentences.

-Elliott Currie
Society is very concerned with the number of black men who are incarcerated in the justice system. Truthfully, when you look at the statistics, it is rather alarming. Black men comprised approximately 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009 (Cadet, 2011). Black men are also imprisoned at a rate that is six times higher than white men and three times higher than Latino men (Cadet, 2011). Take into account that there are more black men “in prison, or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began” and it paints a very grim picture for the state of the black males indeed (Price, 2012, para. 1).

But there is another group whose incarceration rates have been steadily increasing for the past several decades as well: black women. Due to the policies created through the War on Drugs, black women make up the fastest growing prison population (Russel-Brown, 2004; Marable, Steinberg, & Middlemass, 2007). Yet, rising incarceration of black women is rarely talked about in order to focus on incarcerated black men and white women (as usual).

There have always been racial disparities of the incarceration rate of black women (and men). As early as 1910, the incarceration rate of black women was six times higher than white women and between 1926 and 1946, 31% of the incarcerated female population was black women (Russel-Brown, 2004). But it was not until the 1980s that an obvious and deliberate attack on black women was initiated (Currie, 1998; Merlo, 2006; Marable et al., 2007; Jordan-Zachery, 2009).

Black Women and Incarceration Rates

The shackles of slavery endured into other eras, including convict leasing systems and chain gangs. In order to sustain these systems, de-humanizing stereotypes of black women were created to maintain the difference between white and African American women. Black girls are still dealing with racial and gendered stereotypes that were used to justify punishment.

-Priscilla Ocen, professor at UCLA’s Critical Race Studies

While white women make up most of the prison population overall at 45.5 % (Compared to Blacks at 32.6%, and Hispanics at 16%) Blacks women are disproportionately represent in incarceration rates. For every 100,000 Black women, 349 are incarcerated while for every 100,000 white women, 93 are incarcerated (Institute on Women and Criminal Justice, n.d.) From a theoretical context, those in prison who are represented that are women are white and those in prison who are represented as Black are male. Little attention is paid to the Black woman. Particularly Black women with a double or triple biased against them. (For some race and gender, and for others race, gender, and socioeconomic class) Considering the United States has its own form of caste system those who fall into the category of triple biased often times than not are forgotten faces within our prison systems.