9.4 Percent Of Americans Have Diabetes. Sugar, The ‘White Gold’ Of Slavery, Addicts Us All
Sugar. African Americans have a disproportionately high rate of diabetes. Can this be traced all the way back to slavery? A new article in the New York Times claims so.
The piece is by Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a Suzanne Young Murray professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and author of “The Condemnation of Blackness.”
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The article traced the “barbaric history” of the so-called “white gold” and sparked a heated debate on Twitter.
Some person tweeted: “I see @NYTimes is sticking to the plan.
Here’s a little News that would be fit to print, if it only had a Racism angle:
Most of human history is BARBARIC, including the UNIVERSAL institution of Slavery, which was practiced on every inhabited Continent, since the dawn of mankind.”
While another tweeted: “White people getting their panties in a bunch when they’re reminded about historical slavery. We learn history to not repeat it. Don’t take it personally.”
Fact is sugar is still “Queen” in the U.S. “The United States makes about nine million tons of sugar annually, ranking it sixth in global production. The United States sugar industry receives as much as $4 billion in annual subsidies in the form of price supports, guaranteed crop loans, tariffs and regulated imports of foreign sugar, which by some estimates is about half the price per pound of domestic sugar. Louisiana’s sugar-cane industry is by itself worth $3 billion, generating an estimated 16,400 jobs,” the Times reported.
Annually, Americans consume as much as 77.1 pounds of sugar and related sweeteners, according to the United States Department of Agriculture data. And, sugar has been killing Blacks faster. Obesity hits African Americans, especially African-American women, more than other groups.
The connection between Blacks’ overconsumption of sugar can be traced back to slavery.
“The true Age of Sugar had begun — and it was doing more to reshape the world than any ruler, empire or war had ever done,” Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos write in their 2010 book, “Sugar Changed the World.”
“Over the four centuries that followed Columbus’s arrival, on the mainlands of Central and South America in Mexico, Guyana and Brazil as well as on the sugar islands of the West Indies — Cuba, Barbados and Jamaica, among others — countless indigenous lives were destroyed and nearly 11 million Africans were enslaved, just counting those who survived the Middle Passage,” the Times reported.
“White gold” drove trade in goods and people. By 1751, sugar “was already a huge moneymaker’ in British New York.
“Within five decades, Louisiana planters were producing a quarter of the world’s cane-sugar supply. During her antebellum reign, Queen Sugar bested King Cotton locally, making Louisiana the second-richest state in per capita wealth. According to the historian Richard Follett, the state ranked third in banking capital behind New York and Massachusetts in 1840. The value of enslaved people alone represented tens of millions of dollars in capital that financed investments, loans and businesses,” the Times reported.
The slave population quadrupled over a 20-year period to 125,000 people in the mid-19th century, and many were needed to help build the sugar empires. In fact, in every sugar parish, Black people actually outnumbered whites.
It was a harsh existence for slaves.
One former slave named Mrs. Webb told of a torture chamber used by her owner, Valsin Marmillion. “One of his cruelties was to place a disobedient slave, standing in a box, in which there were nails placed in such a manner that the poor creature was unable to move,” she told a W.P.A. interviewer in 1940. “He was powerless even to chase the flies, or sometimes ants crawling on some parts of his body.”
Even after slavery, Blacks still worked the plants and under horrible conditions. And Black cane workers did fight back by resisted collectively by striking during planting and harvesting time. Sometimes they got better wages and conditions, other times there were backlash and reprisals. “After a major labor insurgency in 1887, led by the Knights of Labor, a national union, at least 30 Black people — some estimated hundreds — were killed in their homes and on the streets of Thibodaux, La,” the Times reported.
The late 19th century saw African-Americans with their own cane farms, but it was challenging as there were endless obstacles for Black farmers.
The Department of Justice launched a major investigation into the recruiting practices of one of the largest producers in the nation, the Florida-based the United States Sugar Corporation, in 1942. Black men “were promised seasonal sugar jobs at high wages, only to be forced into debt peonage, immediately accruing the cost of their transportation, lodging
The harsh times for Black sugar farmers continue and many are still seeking reprieve. Meanwhile, Sugar still remains Queen in more ways than one.