Kunta Kinte had High blood pressure
I am the child of field negroes. I say this with little pride. Not because of anything those people did; they survived off of the left over scrapes of grub and built half of this country. They chopped wood and carried water not to find their spiritual centers but to avoid the bite of the whip. What little respite from their labors were found in joyful communion with each other. Still, I am not proud to be the child of field negroes, because I ma left with their legacy.
I worked as a field negro almost a decade ago. There was no whip, no dogs on me if I ran, but I labored in the fields from dawn to dusk thirty planting, hoeing, weeding, and picking. I threw 40lb bails of alfalfa,, straw, and hay twice a day every day, because hungry animals don’t know its Sunday, as my old boss used to say. I shoed animals and milked them. I shaved sheep and castrated piglets (keeps their weight down, so you can hold on to them long enough to sell them). Yes, my friends, before I was an Afrogeek, I was a Nature Negro. They called it an internship so they could pay me $80 a month. I lived off of beans and rice and whatever I could pick from the fields. I read my books, did my writing and cried when my favorite goat died. I weighed 190 lbs and had not an ounce of fat on me. I say once again, I worked as a field negro.
Ok, I’m 5 foot 11 inches. At 190 lbs, according to the Body mass index I was overweight. Now while that work as a field negro was hard it also had the benefit of sculpting my body. Along with my “no fat cause I got no money” diet I can honestly say that I was in the best shape of my life. I ran up mountains, man! Mountains! With backpacks on. But according to the health council of America, or whoever came up with the BMI, I was overweight. Last month I went to the doctor for something totally unrelated and I was told I have high cholesterol. I’m thirty one years old. I don’t eat fast food. I’m at the gym at least three times a week. I run four miles every other day, and I have high cholesterol. I am not proud to be the child of field negroes.
My people were never allowed anywhere near any kind of Big house. We didn’t get table scraps, we got the scraps of the table scraps. If you see my cousins, you’d understand. Not one of them is under 6’2. All of them are big people. Not necessarily fat, in my eyes at least, just big black folks. I’m the runt of the litter at 5’11. We have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, the whole nine. It’d easy to blame diet, and yeah to some extent its true, but there’s also the legacy; The legacy of the slave trade that made it such that those African Americans with high blood pressure were able to survive the months at sea in sub-human conditions, the legacy of sub-standard nutrition that allowed those African slaves who retained all types of cholesterol to be better suited for abuse than those that were accustomed to healthy foods. The legacy of maladaptive bodies. I’ve understood for a long time that African-Americans were not meant to survive in the United states in a socio-political context, but its coming to me now as a embodied concept.
I’ve always laughed at the notion of reparations. America’s not giving shit up and black people need to do for self, case closed. But in my dreamy sci-fi mind, I imagine a world where a people are killed, bred, and fed to need corporate only chemicals to keep them alive. In this dream, the chemical in the form of the whitest pill on the planet is called reparations. Then I wake up and find a doctor telling me to take a pill for the rest of my life that will lower my cholesterol. I’m just saying, is this the world we really live in? Is this the racially harmonized future the positivist preach about? Understand that this is not distress, this is confusion.
So I am not proud to be the descendant of field negroes. I am not embarrassed by them, nor ashamed. But I cannot be proud. It’s an ambiguous place to be at, but I believe that ambiguity to be the most genuine state of truly aware African-Americans today.