For National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Gloria Oladipo explores the difficulties of receiving treatment as a Black woman and the ways in which the treatment can and should improve by tackling colonialism and white supremacy. By Gloria Oladipo My experience as a
The ability to feel empathy is shaped by our genes, and empathy is pretty fucking important.by Sherronda J. Brown and Lara Witt Whiteness is nothing but power. It was given and attributed to some and then many, for the sake of creating an all-consuming, capitalist, cisheteropatriarchal white supremacy. Systemic power, passed down from generation to generation and woven into the fabric of our world, built in through legislation, behaviors and biases, wealth and economic opportunities, geographical location, and culture, all become the lifeblood of parasitic whiteness. Hierarchical social structures like white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, depend entirely on the maintenance of that power. White people, through a series of tools, including the idea that whiteness is all at once the neutral embodiment of human existence and not a privilege in the least, continue to benefit from hundreds of years worth of colonization while Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to hold less power than they do and therefore lack access to opportunities and foundational aspects of human existence — including physical autonomy. Colonialism was rooted in denying humanity to millions, it justified centuries of violence. And white supremacy as we know it today was planned and maintained by people at all levels of society, it creates racial disparities in homelessness, racial health disparities and the racial wealth gap. Whiteness and white people like to frequently remind us of their power without ever discussing it openly or with intent to dismantle white supremacy. No, if anything, whiteness is the one thing—no matter how poor, no matter how angry, no matter how sick they are—white people still have their skin. While there are subtle exertions of white supremacist power—especially popular amongst liberals and within democratic party leadership—there are also very obvious examples of the ways in which whiteness has made white people less empathetic resulting in the systematic harm of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). If white people do not view BIPOC as human through a series of dehumanizing tactics and tools, then has their power given them a sadistic pleasure in seeing our bodies harmed? It would be fair to argue that they do.
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“People are so enamored with white mediocrity they think I should be grateful to sit at a table I'm probably overqualified to be at.” - JerVaeBy Hess Love Everything that we know about “obesity” is an indictment on white supremacy, and everything about who we listen to regarding it is bullshit. The centering of whiteness, especially white women, in the “Body Positivity Movement” recently led Rebel Wilson to tell an egregious lie about being the first fat woman to star in a romantic comedy and then block every Black person who tried to tell her the truth, that plus-sized Black women have starred in romantic comedies before. Women like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique. But Rebel doubled down. Fat White Women like Rebel Wilson don't see Fat Black Women as forces of body positivity or plus-size representation because they view Blackness in itself as "large". Blackness is already big, vast, and something they want to confine, so they make it both a boogie man and a invisibility cloak. They see Blackness as being beastlike, so to be large and Black isn't defying expectations. In an odd way, it makes our fatness nonconsequential to them, because for them, their bodies defy the dainty expectations of a white, Western femininity. To them, that is braver than being fat and Black. Welcome to the politics of "taking up space." That's why they call the cops on small Black children and clutch their purses when they see even small framed Black men. That's why they won't acknowledge when large Black women already did something they're calling themselves brave and pioneering for just now doing. They take space from us to make room for themselves. Our bravery doesn't count. It can't count when even the smallest parts of us are a threat. There's a “historical view of Black Women as bodies without minds that underlies their invisibility” (Thompson, A Hunger So Wide and Deep, 15). Black women are painted as simultaneously enormous and non existent, our vastness is an enigma that is demonized through purposeful misperception that aims to project the thought that we lack a certain level of conscious deliberacy to understand and liberate the space our existence takes up. Black as big, as beast, as fat, is seen as a default experience for us. In the minds eye of white women like Rebel Wilson, that “default” lacks validity on the rubric of bravery. Fat Black women are tired of our bodies and experiences paving roads and painting it with blood just for white women like Rebel Wilson to trapeze down the pathway and ask if the stories she walks over “really” count. They do. Fat Black Women are the original recipients of “fat bitch” retorts when we dare exercise our right to choose and our right to exist. Whether it was fighting off slave owning forefathers, white men that would later be called medical pioneers for infringing on our largeness and reproductive organs, white women that gawked at our physiques while their accompanying men dreamed of other ways to violate us. Fatphobia is indelibly tied to anti-Blackness. Fat Black women are assigned roles where other people bring “purpose” to us to determine our usefulness, never an autonomous validity. The mammy archetype which bleeds over to freudian sexual fetishism around fat Black femme bodies is another agent that makes our presence on a socio-political front more amenable for erasure and labor. Perhaps this image of impressionability is a result of how fat Black women have had to attempt to diminish themselves in order to navigate certain social and systemic scenes. “The one thing that I do recognize in myself is the need to soften myself for white comfort. I am a fat dark black woman and to some white people that in itself is threatening. So I make sure I'm friendly as to not make them uncomfortable, because when white people are uneasy we pay for it in blood. On the flip side of that I'm seen as a mammy to some white people. Someone they can cast their cares on and be overly comfortable with because I only exist to pacify their fragile feelings and labor them on my back all the way to the promise land.” Brandi Wharton, founder of Magical Fat Black Femmes.