How Hundreds Of Years Of Enslavement Impacts Black Bodies Today
"Our ancestors were burning up to four to five thousand calories a day."
Lately, I've been thinking about the epigenetic consequences of slavery on the black body.
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Like how Afro-Americans today dwarf most continental Africans in size (height and frame), even though that is something that I do see changing on a generational level (with youth often being up to twice as tall as their grandparents). So much so that in some of my travels, my size alone marked me as a descendant of the enslaved. It was already noted that I didn't phenotypically resemble the Africans around me. And then on top of that, I was a giant.Physical strength, size and endurance were selected for by slave owners. Keep in mind that these enslaved Africans were selected for fitness on the continent, and then again after surviving the voyage across the Atlantic by boat — and literally bred for these traits across hundreds of years, as they attempted to snuff out every avenue of light to our minds.
Or, we can note how our body fat storage works (our immediate ancestors worked 18 hour days in fields in all weather, and did so on very little food — and almost none of us experience that level of exertion today, which means our bodies have been optimized and predisposed for conditions we no longer experience).
And since fat is essentially food storage, our bodies remember that food wasn't easily available to our ancestors, but have not had the time to adjust to new circumstances. We were enslaved as chattel for over 400 years and only outside of that for about 150. And even then, "freedom" is a stretch until (perhaps) the Civil Rights era, when most black Americans were no longer sharecroppers (i.e. enslaved by default).Our ancestors were burning up to four to five thousand calories a day.
I'm sure these disparities play a role in obesity and other health issues today.Or, we can note how our stress hormones work (with adrenaline and cortisol often being elevated, even at rest, and the impact that has on our heart health). Many of us are born into PTSD and depression. I'm sure the trauma of incessant rape and beatings across hundreds of years has something to do with that.
Or, we can note how Black Diasporan children begin puberty earlier on average than other groups. Well, there was no childhood for the enslaved, and definitely no childhood on the breeding farms. There was no childhood for the offspring of placées, especially those who would themselves enter plaçage — or straight up sex slavery.
And yet, we are the product of the hopes and dreams of our ancestors. They lived and died for us.I honor those who have come before; I give praise to those who are my link to the beginning. I bow before those who were brutalised, and survived, so that I might live and achieve my destiny.