Boris Kodjoe Misses Mark on Black Women and Obesity

Originally posted at

First, let me start off by saying I think that actor Boris Kodjoe and his wife Nicole Ari Parker seem like genuinely nice people and a fine couple.  With that said, I think Kodjoe’s sanctimoniousness got in the way of a great message–one that’s been done over and over again–but one that still bears revisiting.  The problem is, we cannot revisit nor examine when we are missing the point.  That doesn’t accomplish anything.  It derails the conversation and takes it to a place where there is nothing productive going on and nothing productive to come of it.  It becomes a self-aggrandizing exercise is self-righteousness and less about the people one is supposed to help.
I am currently studying for my Bachelors Degree in Social Science.  I picked this degree because social science is something I’m passionate about and seeing as how I agonize over this stuff regularly, I figure I might as well get a degree for it.  One of the most basic principles I learned in Sociology is that things are rarely EVER simply black and white.  I mean some things are that simple, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the thought process or the path to that decision, whatever it may be, was black or white.

This is where Boris Kodjoe got it wrong when he decided to go in on fat” black women, while ignoring Americans in general, black men, poverty, the economy, income, etc.  While extolling how healthy he and his wife are–and I applaud them–he somehow forgot that they are wealthy.  His targets are overwhelmingly living in low income areas, are often single and taking care of children, and don’t have fmoney for much.   Here are a few more of his tweets:

“Ok, people. Just to make it clear. I love all women! I love them tall and short, big and small, dark and light, short hair and long hair. You all know [Nicole] and I are all about health. And we as a community have to be more conscious of our health. The numbers are shocking. I love ‘thickness’. And I love a woman who loves herself. And loving yourself is being healthy. Here some # from the US Dept. for minority health: 4 out of 5 African-American women are overweight or obese! Obesity related diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer (only 5 types of cancer are hereditary) are the leading cause of death. It’s not about conforming to these ridiculous ‘skinny’ beauty standards in the media, it’s about being healthy so your kids can be healthy.”

High blood pressure and Type II diabetes are only 30% from genes and 70% from environmental input, aka bad diet and no exercise[…]By popular demand, a new slogan: SEXY STACKED GODDESS No weight differentiation, BMI, or label needed. It stands for healthy and confident. “

The numbers for African-American women ARE alarming.  But in basically just pointing out the obvious, he dropped the ball big time.  He went for the simplest equation.  He didn’t even bother to use current events to help bring the message home to the people he was trying to help.  Okay, from your home that is most likely stacked with food and healthy treats it’s easy.  What other words of advice do you have for these women who may be on benefits or have NEVER had anyone teach them how to prepare healthy foods?

I grew up on a traditional Panamanian diet.  It was rice and peas (beans), usually fried or sauteed proteins and the like.  We did have lots of fruit and salad so loving veggies did not come hard for me.  However, I could never eat that diet again because its unhealthy, and I blame that diet for killing my grandmother.  She died of colon cancer in 1994.  When I first started to eat healthy in 2002 after having my first child and wanting to lose the baby weight, I went through TONS of diet books just trying to figure out what to do.  I had no clue how to diversify my meals.  I knew to fry and bake foods but I didn’t know anything about portion size, calories, fat, macronutrients, carbs, etc.  Eventually I decided JUST to eat 900 calories a day.  I’m 69.5″.  At the time I weighed over 200 lbs.  That was pretty much anorexia.  I did not have a clue.  It was through lots of time and lots of money that I started to get a clue.  Still it wasn’t enough.  By the time we’d gotten out of the military, we were leaving on a meager salary.  Going to the grocery store had to be done right and it had to be managed down to the last cent.  I agonized over food daily.  I simply did NOT want it to run out.  Some meals did not have lots of veggies.  Some meals were made from Tuna Helper and Hamburger Helper (pretty damned hearty and quite comforting and I have a special place in my heart for it lol).  But even at our lowest, we were making MORE money than most of the women that Kodjoe goes in on. And I get really tired of people using black women as scapegoats.  He goes on to make a number of different points about how “R men” are in jail.  Really?  Why don’t you just tweet to them about that.  What does that have to do with women, or more specifically black women?  So we’ve got a healthy dose of patriarchy and sexism to go with our size discrimination.  Nice!

I am not about making excuses.  There is plenty of accountability to go around.  Kodjoe fails to do that.  He fails because he omitted important information and decided to “pile on the rabbit”.  That was the easy way out.  It’s easy for anyone here to make derisive, disdainful comments about fat black women.  They are easy targets after all.  Who has NOT made fun of them?  Hell, making fun of and judging fat people is the easiest thing to do but it takes someone who TRULY cares, someone who is truly selfless to put all the pieces together and see the big picture.  If he truly cared about these women, his tweets would have been far more enlightening as opposed to condescending.  I would also like to add that his suggestion to use the BMI calculator is a little pedestrian considering BMI is not always accurate as it doesn’t take into consideration your body fat percentage.  So a bodybuilder is going to come out obese because the calculator doesn’t know any better…

Again, I want to see Americans healthy, but I am just as concerned for black women as he supposedly is.  It is a problem, but the problem is bigger than telling people what they already know.  Lip service has never solved any major problems facing a society in need, Mr. Kodjoe.  Think bigger.  Get back to us.

P.S. The BMI calculator considers me overweight but I deadlift 155 lbs., squat 130 lbs. and generally put to shame a good chunk of the men at my gym… And I am still a work in progress.  People may not know it from my little love handles, but I GO. THE. HELL. IN. at the gym… Don’t judge a book by its cover.