A relatively popular science-themed publication took to Twitter in late December to promote an article from their outlet (published roughly two years earlier) that was centered around the claim that “fighting obesity” is grounded in “racist roots.”
Needless to say, the pushback and criticism received from the Twitter post is arguably well-warranted because the merit of general claim coming from a purported science publication is as laughable as it is completely un-scientific.
The heightened concern about black women's weight reflects the racist stigmatization of their bodies. It also ignores how interrelated social factors impact black women’s health. https://t.co/sqVv8wpHyJ
— Scientific American (@sciam) December 28, 2022
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On December 28th, the official Twitter account of Scientific American published a tweet promoting their June 2020 article titled, “The Racist Roots of Fighting Obesity,” with the subheading attempting to expand/justify this preposterous headline with, “Prescribing weight loss to Black women ignores barriers to their health.”
The first and ostensibly most obvious issue regarding this article published by Scientific American is that it is a prime example of pandering. This notion of pandering is evident based upon when the article was published, June 4th of 2020, coming mere days after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent riots that unfolded following Floyd’s death.
For those who remember the news media and entertainment publication cycle going on during those days and weeks following the widespread BLM riots, there were a healthy number of publications squeezing the proverbial juice out of being able to slap words like “racist” or “racism” in their headlines – a clickbait tactic that eventually spun into absurd territory.
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A perfect example of how ridiculous the ‘label it racist’ game got regarding online articles during the summer of 2020 can be summarized with this gem from July of 2020 titled, “The Unintentional Racism Found in Traffic Signals.”
Yes, it’s a real article – and the cretin who penned the piece actually promoted his absurd theory on Twitter the day after he published the article.
I just published The Unintentional Racism Found in Traffic Signals https://t.co/vhhSWW6kig @Medium @levelmag
— David Kaufman (@KaufmanDavidNYC) July 7, 2020
Thus, this goes to show that publications during the summer of 2020 were willing to make some massive stretches in order to call just about anything racist – and Scientific American is no different, clearly.
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Now, one has to keep in mind that Scientific American is one of the oldest publications still in physical circulation today, having first been printed in 1845, and had even featured articles written by famous scientists like Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein. Flash forward to June of 2020, Scientific American is putting out nonsensical articles about how promoting healthy bodyweights is racist.
This June 2020 article was reportedly written by a woman named Sabrina Strings, a sociology professor at the University of California who is also the author of the 2019 book “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” which the Amazon description of said book is worthy of a few chuckles.
“The author argues that the contemporary ideal of slenderness is, at its very core, racialized and racist. Indeed, it was not until the early twentieth century, when racialized attitudes against fatness were already entrenched in the culture, that the medical establishment began its crusade against obesity. An important and original work, Fearing the Black Body argues convincingly that fat phobia isn’t about health at all, but rather a means of using the body to validate race, class, and gender prejudice.”
It’s hardly shocking to learn that Strings’ June 2020 article in Scientific American was her one and only article ever featured to this day amid the publication. But let’s explore the hilariously un-scientific nature of Strings’ article so as to demonstrate how dumb it is for Scientific American to continue pushing this nonsense.
By the time the readers grace the second paragraph of Strings’ June 2020 article, she begins dishing out some wild claims of doctors not properly “testing and diagnosing” patients when rendering medical advice about managing one’s weight.
“Many doctors have claimed that Black women’s ‘excess’ weight is the main cause of their poor health outcomes, often without fully testing or diagnosing them. While there has been a massive public health campaign urging fat people to eat right, eat less and lose weight, Black women have been specifically targeted.”
It’s important to note that Strings doesn’t link to anything remotely supporting this baseless claim that medical professionals aren’t “fully testing or diagnosing” obese patients at some significant rate to justify her asserting this is “often” the case. The only verifiable claim made by Strings in the above snippet is that “Black women have been specifically targeted” in health-focused campaigns around tackling obesity, largely because studies show the aforementioned demographic harbors the highest obesity rate.
And it is hardly news to point out that there’s nothing healthy about obesity, as the HHS report regarding obesity rates linked above details how those who are overweight “are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes and LDL cholesterol – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.”
But in Strings’ distorted perception of reality, pointing out these very real medical risks associated with obesity is racist, asserting that “This heightened concern about their weight is not new; it reflects the racist stigmatization of Black women’s bodies.”
Strings comes to this conclusion of modern concerns around the health implications of obesity being racist by pointing to dodgy theories of then-scientists from roughly 300 years ago where “scientists studying race argued that African women were especially likely to reach dimensions that the typical European might scorn.”
Perhaps Strings didn’t realize at the time of penning this drivel that practices such as bloodletting were still considered viable medical treatments for a number of ailments up until the late 19th century, so pointing to the discredited racial biology theories of centuries past as a means to call modern medical science racist illustrates just how lacking Strings’ argument is.
The arguments presented by Strings only get worse from there, such as claiming that medical professionals are promoting “a misinformed and damaging message about weight and health,” justifying this outrageous allegation by following the claim up with, “social determinants have been shown to be more consequential to health than BMI or health behaviors.”
For the sake of context, “social determinants” is a term literally meant to relate to everything regarding someone’s environment. So, of course, someone living on the wrong side of Chicago will face an increased risk of being murdered than someone who resides in a gated community in Columbia, Maryland; or someone with a vehicle hosting a higher crash-test rating is more likely to survive a serious car accident as opposed to someone with a vehicle harboring a lesser crash-test rating.
But Strings basically pointing out that the world, as a whole, can be littered with places more dangerous than others or that various economic circumstances can increase or decrease mortality risks amid certain specific scenarios doesn’t mean that verifiable medical concerns around obesity is both racist and should be discarded.
Not only is Strings’ general claim of ‘fighting obesity is racist’ dumb, the manner in which she tries to support the claim is just plain unscientific.
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The former paragons (particularly of those N.0.W. refuting science … e.g. S.A.) will fall ! FSA !! – A. Biologist