The latest 'fattest cities' list just came out (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2009-01-13-fit-fat-cities...). And, as usual, my heart, Detroit Michigan, is sitting right near the top of the list. Detroit alternates between being THE FATTEST and just plain old fat year after year.
My question: What the hell are we supposed to do with these lists?
Now that people who live near or around this cities have been subjected to picture after picture of morbidly obese bodies sitting in front of fast food restaurants eating triple-decker cheeseburgers and drinking super sized shakes through their nightly news and local newspapers--now what?
Does anything ever change after the fattest of the fat lists come out? Do cities that struggle to feed their citizens suddenly get grocery stores instead of gas stations (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20051121/200/1658)? Do they fund community gardens instead of destroying those gardens for warehouse storage (http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=vie...)? Are there government programs being instituted to help ease the cost of food inflation (http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200901161420DOWJONES...)?
Because the answer is no to all of these questions, and has been a strong emphatic no for many years, I have to wonder if these "fattest cities" lists serve any other purpose than continuing the stigmatization of fat bodies in general and fat brown bodies in particular. If you look at the list of cities, only two of the top ten are not cities that are heavily populated by at least one community of color. For example, although Detroit is not in the top ten this year, it is known as a 'black' city--with smaller sections of the city belonging to various populations of color (for example, Mexican Town).
So when cities like Detroit (or Maimi) are listed as "fat" cities--and as such are stereotyped as all the bad things that come with fatness (i.e. laziness, over-indulgence, stupidity, lack of will power, lack of control etc)--how do those negative stereotypes combine with racialized negative stereotypes (i.e. blacks are lazy, over-indulgent, sitting on welfare, etc)?
And even more specifically, how do these negative stereotypes about fatness and race intersect with gender? In other words--when mothers of color are already looked upon as bad mothers--and often lose their children as a result of their "bad parenting"?
The USA article offers some clues--the only population it specifically calls out as being 'fat' is the immigrant community. And then there's this lovely gem of a piece which wonders:
When I was young, I never saw fat white women. Now, everywhere I go, I see out-of-shape white women. Many of them, especially their legs, are larger than NFL players. What happened? Is it their diet, or are they just lazy?
But most telling is this article that highlights how children that are *already* a drain on our economy (according to the hateful logic) are being set up to be *life time* dependents on our economy (http://www.wane.com/dpp/search/Childhood_Obesity_Growing_Out_of_Control_...). An excerpt:
The number of overweight children increases within the low-income families. Parkviews's 2006 study found:
* 24.7 percent of low-income children are overweight.
* 33.5 percent of low-income African American children are overweight.
* 57.5 percent of low-income Hispanic children are overweight.
"The kids we see when they come in for treatment are usually pretty severe," Wehrle said.
Wehrle said children become overweight for a combination of reasons, but mostly because of what they eat and how much they move.
"Genetics can predispose a person to obesity, but really it's the environment that tips the scale and causes obesity," she said.
The obesity epidemic is also impacting healthcare costs. People who are overweight are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and some cancers.
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the CDC found the annual cost of obesity in the United States is about $100 billion.
Additionally, people who don't get enough physical exercise often need more medication, visit a physician more often and are hospitalized more often. The direct medical cost associated with physical inactivity in 1987 was $29 billion and was nearly $76.6 billion in 2000, according to the CDC and NCCDPHP.
What's important to note here is that the *reason* all these drain on pubic resources are going to happen is because of "the environment" that (poor) children (of color) grow up in. So what is "environment" code word for? If you look at the article, "the environment" generally seems to refer to 1. being poor, 2. being of color and 3. eating lots of fast food rather than vegetables and fiber.
Well, who, stereotypically, is poor, colored and doesn't have adequate enough parenting skills to feed their children quality nutritious food?
Single mothers of color, anybody?
Article after article that vaguely insinuate poor parenting skills are the cause of childhood health problems rather than the U.S. government legally kicking poor people out of community gardens so that the land can be "developed," do little to help the children these articles seem to want to help.
What would be different if article after article linking severe health problems (NOT FATNESS) to food stamp reductions or community garden destruction were linked?
In other words, what would happen if media began listening to the people in the community who know very damn well what the problem is, rather than some 'specialist' that makes money off of fixing the 'problems'?
Cross posted at Vivir Latino