Today is Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week (#DBlogWeek) and today’s topic asks us to reflect upon a person who has passed judgement on us and envision them saying something differently. What would we have them say to us instead of what they actually said.
Here I go…
I can’t think of a particular person because I have had so many experiences with people and information about diabetes, that I would like to envision them all saying this to me.
I am sorry.
I am sorry that you were born in a society that has yet to rectify the ill-treatment of black Americans and the lasting effects of inequality.
I am sorry that you grew up in a poor neighborhood and because of that your ability to access fresh foods at affordable prices was almost non-existent.
I am sorry that you grew up in a neighborhood that was saturated with drugs, drug addicts, and drug dealers, and it made going outside to exercise dangerous. So you learned to stay inside.
I am sorry that so many things were scarce or absent from your family and neighbors for so long, for so many years, decades, and centuries that food and ample portions of it was the way in which your family came to express love.
I am sorry that the environmental stress of being in the skin you are in wears on your mind and has negative effects on your body.
I am sorry that your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother carried her in a womb toxic with worrying about her safety and that it was still true for your mother’s mother’s mother and your mother’s mother and your mother and even you as you carried your daughter in the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement and that science is just now getting around to discovering that anxiety, stress, and worry affects babies at the cellular level.
I am sorry that we have yet to know the full extent of what 400 years of this trauma does to the bodies of African Americans and how it may weaken organs like the pancreas.
I am sorry that you’ve had to worry about your safety daily and that most of the times that trumped your ability to think about whether the meal you were eating was “healthy” or not.
I am sorry that no one came to your school, to your neighborhood, to your church to teach healthy eating with the foods that are important to your culture.
I am sorry that you didn’t have access to proper medical care and physicians who saw you as a person.
I am sorry that no one explained that these socio-economic factors are the primary risk factors that caused you to develop Type 2 diabetes, but rather just stated “Risk Factor: Being African American.”
I am sorry that when you read or are told, “Being African American is a risk factor of Type 2 diabetes” that it makes you feel that there is something, yet another thing, wrong with the skin you are in.
I am sorry that messages like this hurt you so much emotionally when you were in the hospital newly diagnosed that you sunk into depression not fully understanding why.
I am sorry that these messages turned you away from learning about diabetes because you couldn’t take another kick during the very fragile and vulnerable state you were in.
I am sorry that your beautiful blackness and cultural identity isn’t celebrated while simultaneously condemning the conditions to which you were exposed and which you are forced to survive in as the real risk factors of Type 2 diabetes.
I am sorry that when you leave your home you pass seven fast food restaurants with glaring signs of complete meals for $5 and five corner stores before you reach a grocery store where $5 won’t buy you a complete meal made with fresh ingredients.
I am sorry that it is not clearly stated that if someone, not matter their race or ethnicity, were exposed to the same historical and societal experiences as African Americans and Native Americans, they would face the same risk factors.
I am sorry that by not saying this, it feels like another assault.
I am sorry that the secretary at the podiatrist’s office assumed you were on Medicaid and denied you an appointment until you asked her what was Medicaid. It was then that it became very transparent that she assumed you were on Medicaid because you were African American. It was then that it became very transparent that those on Medicaid aren’t treated the same.
I am sorry that in that moment you realized, as if you didn’t know before, that being African American navigating the Health Care system is multifaceted and having a PhD with “good insurance” meant little on first sight.
I am sorry that an Endocrinologist treated you like “all the other” African American patients at the office until she realized that you had a PhD and told you immediately that “you’re not like the rest” and her level of care, treatment, and attitude changed.
I am sorry that you walked out, sat in your parked car, and cried after that visit because you couldn’t deny the reality of the differences in treatment some African Americans receive and your soul poured out like a river in Springtime overflowing with grief, despair, compassion, and confusion.
I am sorry that this type of pain from frequently feeling hopelessness is a risk factor for an array of health problems.
I am sorry that you felt that it was better to give yourself insulin injections inside filthy public bathroom stalls because you feared that someone might see you, think you are a drug addict, and call the police because you know that an encounter with the police could become brutal.
I am sorry that you were told you shouldn’t have children because your babies would come out with defects and you needed to be on birth control, rather than being told how to properly manage diabetes to ensure you will have a healthy baby.
I am sorry you were told this while living in North Carolina, a state known for forcefully sterilizing black women, (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=205548336) and you once again left that appointment, sat in your parked car, and cried those tears of hopelessness because the experience of being black meant your experience with health care was different. Emotionally damaging. Depressing.
I am sorry that when you told a physician that your parents and grandparents did not have Type 2 diabetes that she replied by saying, “Someone in your family is lying,” because she believed that all African Americans had to be living with diabetes or would get it eventually.
I am sorry we don’t use the right language, definitions, and descriptions about the real risk factors and the pain that that causes you.
I am, however, extremely proud that you demonstrate the outstanding resilience of African Americans. I hope that your diabetes advocacy has an impact on the world, so keep going because there is so much work that needs to be done and I am here to support you 100%.
Had I been told this, I would have certainly be able to stand taller and smile brighter quicker. I have taken a few blows, tripped over a few hurdles, been knocked down a few times; but I am still standing and I hope that my openness about my experiences will be a catalyst for change.