Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to dispel some of the mythology that has negatively affected the mental and physical health of black folks in America. I am not here to deter anyone who is not of African descent from reading this. Please do continue. I just need to holla at my people real quick.
It’s no secret that the effects of slavery still trickle down into the traditions we have passed from generation to generation in the black community. One of the more nuanced “traditions” we have passed down is the idea that we shouldn’t go outside. We may try to justify telling our children this because we have been marketed the idea that the sun’s rays are bad for us, but the truth is, we were taught this because post-slavery nobody wanted to be “too black”. And honey, the longer we are in the sun, the blacker we become. We don’t want to look like field Negros. Especially if you are a woman. They are the ones who work outside. In turn, we have adopted the attitude that we need to preserve the lightness in our skin, which has been working against us ever since.
This is not a shot at light skinned people. This is about health. The fact of the matter is, this melanin and this kinky hair was designed to keep us hydrated in high temperatures. Our kinky texture helps keep sweat trapped close to our bodies instead of immediately running off so that we can go through the process of evaporative cooling. This melanin is a natural sunscreen that blocks the harmful effects of UV rays since we are made for warmer climates. We also naturally retain sodium to prevent dehydration. We were MEANT to be in the sun!
While these things helped us thrive in the climates of the middle East and across the African continent, and made us prime targets used in the South for harvesting cotton and sugar cane outside all day, living in the modern US has caused some issues for us. Our melanin, which is designed to keep us safe in the sun, coupled with our avoidance of the great outdoors leaves most of us with some serious Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is found in only a few foods, but is already in our bodies. There’s just one external factor we need to activate it. You guessed it: sunlight. More specifically, UV rays. If you are a person who has a lot of melanin so you don’t absorb UV rays very easily AND you avoid going outside, you will inevitably develop a Vitamin D deficiency.
Who cares? You care. Vitamin D promotes Calcium absorption (bones), modulates cell growth (helps cells reproduce healthily. The opposite of this is CANCER!), aids in neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation. In other words, it not only contributes to your general health, but it also helps you fight diseases. Not to mention, sunlight improves mood, and we could all use a good boost.
Vitamin D is something that our bodies cannot function optimally without and the best way to get it is to go outside and spend a little time in the sun. So next time you hear your grandma’s voice in your head telling you to avoid the sun, tell your grandma that you can’t hear her because you’re too busy boosting your immune system. Tell her metaphorically, of course. Don’t get slapped on my account. 😉