Published On: Mon, May 23rd, 2016

We, not slavery, are to blame for our current health problems

local foodFrom time to time, I hear the argument being made that the diet that our slave ancestors were “forced fed” is the primary reason why we in the Caribbean have such a major problem with hypertension and diabetes today. This ridiculous argument was again recently made at some supposedly esteemed event not too long ago. Not only is this claim false, it is also insulting.

I distinctly remember seeing a news report, about a year ago, coming from Barbados about the concerns that the government there had in respect of that country’s dietary practices and that country’s rising problem with diabetes. Despite its best efforts, more and more Barbadians were turning to fast and junk food. Nowhere in that report was any reference made to slavery.

However, the problem is not just confined to Barbados. How often do you see parents sending off their kids to school with lunch packs stuffed with junk food? Far too often! Far too often, I myself have seen a lot of parents buying lunch for their young children that consists mostly of sweet biscuits and soda drinks. These young children are the diabetic patients of the future. In none of these cases can I remember seeing a slave master with a whip!

We are constantly told that our “wicked” slave masters of old forced our slave ancestors to “over-eat” salt-fish, yams and other starchy foods in order to feed them at the cheapest costs. However, assuming that to be true, noting much has changed.

However, here is the insulting part of this baseless argument: Assuming that our slave ancestors were forced to live on a diet of salted and starchy food to be true as a direct cause of us still doing that today despite everything that we know about what such a diet can lead to speaks volumes of our own ability to think for ourselves today. Is it that that “mental re-programming” of those “wicked” slave owners was so good, to the point that it became hereditary?

I long for the day when we can start taking some responsibility for our own actions, not only in regards to the problems that our current dietary practices are clearly causing today, but in regards to a lot of other things. We need to grow up and stop blaming other peoples for our own irresponsible actions!

By Michael A. Dingwall

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