Research suggests that black Americans do not need the same amount of dairy in their diets, indicating the U.S. government’s nutrition guidelines are racist towards minority populations.
Black people don’t need milk to strengthen their bones, as they have genetically developed ways of retaining calcium from other sources in their diet, according to a study published in BoneKEy, the official journal of the International Bone and Mineral Society.
“What has happened is the medical community has universalized the particular biology of [Caucasians],” the study’s author Dr. Constance Hilliard told Mother Jones. “And the medical community has yet to frame its questions in ways that investigate whether foods that have been culturally labeled as ‘good for you’ have deleterious consequences for minorities.”
Looking at the rates of osteoporosis — a bone disease associated to calcium deficiency — in African countries, Hilliard found that people in countries that consume more dairy also had higher rates of osteoporosis. Countries that don’t consume milk had fewer cases of osteoporosis. Encouraging everyone to drink milk, regardless of their race, could actually harm minority populations.
The U.S. government’s official dietary guidelines recommend that American adults drink three glasses of milk every day, but that amount of milk could actually hurt minority populations, which makes the governments recommendations discriminatory according to Hilliard, professor of history and evolutionary researcher at University of North Texas.
Hilliard is not the first to decry the incipient racism in the government’s milk recommendations. “The USDA’s policy of promoting dangerous milk consumption in some communities while warning the general population against it is an example of food oppression,” writes Andrea Freeman, law professor at the University of Hawaii, in a 2013 paper.
Even in marketing efforts, the racist quality of milk is emphasized: “Early milk promoters associated the whiteness of milk with the putative purity of racial whiteness,” Freeman writes.
Freeman’s academic paper, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Milk: Food Oppression and the USDA,” looks at the broader issue of “food oppression” as well, noting that “food oppression is a difficult concept for many to embrace because of the powerful rhetoric regarding personal choice that is endemic in the United States.”
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