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It’s a shame that some black folks spend too much time ridiculing each other when there are a myriad of critical issues that need our collective attention in black communities across the nation. Is this about self-hate? Help me out here. I’m talking about the vile treatment of Gabourey Sidibe, who attended the Golden Globes Awards Sunday night, by critics who seize every opportunity to mock Sidibe each time she appears in public. It’s getting old.
The 30-year-old “American Horror Story: Coven” star received nasty tweets about her appearance after she arrived at the Golden Globe Awards with some viewers taking offense to her floor-length gown. The reactions ranged from sarcastic “is she pregnant?” tweets to demands for Sidibe’s stylist to do a better job of dressing her.
The latest round of insults prompted Sidibe to take to Twitter to address the mocking. “To people making mean comments about my GG pics,” she tweeted. “I most definitely cried about it on that private jet on the way to my dream job last night #JK.” Of course, I realize that it’s not just about black folks who are critical of Sidibe. Whites are extremely mean to Sidibe, too, but it’s particularly troubling when some of the mean-spirited mocking comes from black American men and women — some of whom could stand to lose a few pounds themselves.
I don’t know the racial makeup of the people tweeting and blogging their negative opinions about Sidibe’s weight, but I have heard many negative comments and jokes from black men and women who have been quite disrespectful of Sidibe. The irony is that some of the black women and black men who joke about Sidibe are obese themselves.
Sidibe is a smart woman and an Academy Award-nominated actress. She knows she is overweight and has either decided to accept it, embrace it, and move on, or perhaps she struggles with her weight. I don’t pretend to know. But here is what she told Parade magazine: “I don’t care whether or not people will find me attractive on screen. That’s not why I became an actor.” Sidibe may not care what her critics think, and that is admirable, but obesity is still a serious issue in the black community and should be discussed in the appropriate forum. And there are those who, I believe, have a genuine concern for Sidibe’s health. And for good reason.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese; African Americans were 1.5 times as likely to be obese as non-Hispanic Whites; African American women were 80% more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic White women; African American girls were 80% more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic White girls.
These are very sobering statistics. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President of Global Policy Solutions, a policy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. and Director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, wrote an enlightening essay two years ago that should still resonate with black women today. “African-American women must not be reluctant to discuss the issue of obesity if we are to address the health disparities that make us, and the children for whom we are primary caretakers, live sicker and shorter lives,” Rockymoore wrote.
“While it is okay to uplift personal behaviors like healthy eating and physical activity as a part of the solution to the problem, we must also address the structural factors that undermine our health,” she added. “To do so, we must support each other and work in partnership with schools, faith and community groups, businesses, and government leaders to reshape our communities into places where healthier choices are made easier.” Rockeymoore’s thoughtful essay is the proper way to address obesity, a serious concern in the black community, not the snide, vile comments about Sidibe’s weight that are posted on social media. As black Americans, we should be more respectful to each other – and more courteous to black women. And that includes Gabourey Sidibe.
Aren’t we better than that? What do you think?